Goldwater Photo

Former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater was a photographer of his native state in addition to a politician.

The first time I ever voted, my ballot included Barry M. Goldwater, then considered one of the most conservative members in the U.S. Senate, and Morris K. Udall, considered one of the most liberal members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

I voted for both.

I did so not for their differences in national and international politics, which were many, but for what they had in common — a sincere love for Arizona, its people and its beauty.

While Udall is known for his environmental activism and pursuit of preserving Arizona’s outdoor wonders, Goldwater was also a staunch outdoorsman and environmental steward in his own right.

The five-term senator was also a gifted photographer who enjoyed capturing Arizona’s scenic wonders and its diverse people in iconic images. The 1964 GOP presidential candidate, who once said “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” also went to great extremes to get that special photo.

Many of the locations of his photos were not easy to get to at the time they were taken. Beginning in 1938, Goldwater served for decades as one of the first and foremost photographers for Arizona Highways magazine, which published hundreds of Goldwater’s photographs celebrating the landscape, people and culture of the state.

During his lifetime, Goldwater took more than 15,000 photographs, hundreds of which have appeared in nationwide exhibitions and photo books as well as Arizona Highways.

Dozens of Goldwater’s select photos, with back stories, are now on display at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. I recently saw the exhibit and the thing that stands out the most is the portraits of Native Americans, in particular Navajos, that Goldwater took.

Many of these photos were taken in the 1940s, when access to Native peoples and places was not something many photographers were granted.

It is a testament to the special relationship Goldwater had among Arizona’s tribes that he was able to get such special photos.

The exhibition, available for viewing through June 23, was curated by Ali Goldwater Ross, Sen. Goldwater’s granddaughter. The Scottsdale show features the largest collection of Goldwater’s work ever exhibited, including never-before-shown photos, intimate family pictures and personal items belonging to the late senator.

The selected family photos through the years show Goldwater’s human side as both a kid and adult. It also includes shots of Goldwater with liberal-leaning celebrities and other politicians of the time you wouldn’t expect to be friends with the conservative icon.

Yes, it was a different era where, in Goldwater’s words, you could disagree without being disagreeable.

Goldwater, who died in 1998, was actually born in Arizona when it was still a territory and the population of the Valley was just 10,000. The exhibit serves as a good glimpse into the past of a rapidly growing state.

“My photo books on Arizona are my last will and testament to my love for my native state,” Goldwater once said.

And in the true Goldwater spirit of reaching across the aisle, one of the exhibition’s sponsors is Canon.

Goldwater used a Nikon.

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You can contact Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.

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