Photo: Kristi Hager, Antelope Coulee Bridge, off south frontage road near Vaughn, Cascade County, reinforced concrete, archival digital print from scanned 4x5 negative, courtesy Montana Department of Transportation.

For The Record: Photographing Montana’s Historic Bridges, Powerhouses, And Missile Sites, Inside And Out

February 21 2023 - May 20 2023

Photographs by Kristi Hager

This is an exhibit of Kristi Hager's photographs of historic Montana structures. Over the past 20 years, Hager photographed dams, power plants, missile sites, and bridges across Montana for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), which are now archived in the Library of Congress. One of her mandates, aside from straight documentation of the site, was to produce an image of the highest aesthetic quality. This effort resulted in a vast archive of over 600 images. Many of the structures have continued to weather, disintegrate, or be actively dismantled. Some are no longer extant. Hager’s documentation of these historic structures provides a valuable resource for researchers and historic preservation efforts, even while acting as a significant, almost poetic, visual record of Montana. When Montanans go outside to experience the natural world, it is not without traveling along the roadways, hiking under powerlines that span valleys, fishing below dams, or floating under a bridge. Utility infrastructure is ubiquitous and familiar. Some of it features in our scenic photos and memories. These places are relatable and recognizable, part of our perception of Montana. Hager’s archival quality 4x5 inch photographic negatives were contact printed to ensure quality, but never enlarged. Recently, Tom Ferris scanned the negatives for Hager, printing them on archival Hahnemuhle paper as 16 x 20 inch images. MAM organized this exhibition, which is traveling under the auspices of the Montana Art Gallery Directors Association (MAGDA), to Explore the Arts in Hamilton; Holter Museum of Art in Helena; and MonDak Heritage Center in Sidney through 2025. Generous funding for this project provided by the Foundation for Montana History.

Related Press

Missoulian - Missoula Art Museum to display photos of Montana historic bridges, other sites - February 22, 2023

Missoulian - Photographing Montana bridges, historic sites before they disappear - March 2, 2023

KVGO - Hear the Stories Behind Montana Historic Bridge Photos [interview with Hager] - April 20, 2023

Related Events

Friday, April 7 from 5 to 8 PM - First Friday celebration with Kristi Hager

Saturday, Apr. 15 from 12 to 12:30 PM - Embodied Engagement: For The Record (Photographs By Kristi Hager)

Thursday, Apr. 20 from 5:30 to 7 PM - Kristi Hager: Artist Talk

Thursday, May 11 from 5:30 to 7 PM - HPC Historic Preservation Award Ceremony

Thursday, May 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM - Montana World Affairs Council/Nuclear Weapons: New Realities

About the Artist

Kristi Hager is a painter and photographer living in Missoula. She taught photography at Santa Clara University before moving to Montana. In 1997, she started LIGHT ROOM, a large-format historical photography business. Many of Hager's photographs appear in Conveniences Sorely Needed: Montana’s Historic Highway Bridges 1860-1956, by Jon Axline, historian at the Montana Department of Transportation. She wrote the text for Evelyn Cameron: Montana’s Frontier Photographer, a 2007 Montana Book Award honor winner. Hager earned her BA in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania and MFA at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2003, Hager received a Gottlieb Foundation Individual Support Grant and in 2010, she received the Montana Arts Council Artist’s Innovation Award.

Image: Kristi Hager sets up the camera, photograph by H. Rafael Chacón.