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Exhibition Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America's Library

Carol M. Highsmith

In her mid-30s, Carol M. Highsmith switched from a successful career in broadcasting to become a professional photographer. In the last 40 years, Highsmith has made more than 50,000 photographs working in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. She has focused on landscapes and architecture in both urban and rural America, with added interest in people and their work environments. She has also traveled the country widely to document folk art sculpture, festivals, and roadside landmarks, such as the tipi motel on Route 66. Working primarily in vibrant colors, her vision is upbeat. She uses beauty, humor, and humanity as her guiding view of America.

Highsmith’s first extended project documented the 1970s transition along Pennsylvania Avenue as the buildings between the White House and the Capitol were restored from states of decay to worthy structures in a historic neighborhood. That project became her first gift to the Library of Congress in 1992. Thus began a series of major donations from throughout her career, including her documentation of the Library of Congress buildings and her ongoing America project. Highsmith’s photographs, a former Library curator noted, have created “a permanent record of the country and its people for the common good.”