Scholla: Capturing Beauty October 9, 1944

To the outlander, we Pennsylvania Dutch are ruddy-faced, corpulent folks; a thrifty people with large families, living in ageless houses, on lush farms; dependable, too, but inclined to be stolid and dumb.

The outlander knows also about our barn signs and accuses us of hexerai rather than; he may have sampled our schnitz and knepp, and shoe-fly; and purchased pottery bearing a tulip design.

But rarely does the outlander suspect us of wonder.

Edward A. Hill, Fleetwood R. 1, possesses that quality, wonder, to a high degree, not only in prose and poetry but in the natural color, still and motion pictures that comprise his nature lectures. Even his method of taking pictures is far from ordinary. To photograph great horned owls he climbed an 85-foot tree; and he sets his camera for days to record the “invisible motion” of the birth of a jack in the pulpit or a wild rose. He has perpetuated hoary frost; photographs pollen through the microscope; is preparing a lecture for the William Penn Tercentenary, Philadelphia; and was recently invited to show his pictures to the officials of the New York Museum of Natural History. An Encyclopedia Company is also negotiating for photographs.

He lives in a half-log, half-stone farmhouse. The living room has a fireplace, the chimney stones of which he pointed himself. The ceiling is low, the floor squeaks, the chair-rails are intact, and the windowsills are wide enough for his mother’s African violets.

His first-floor laboratory has one blue wall “for my backgrounds” , and overlooks a tangled meadow where he photographs insects, birds, peepers, flowers and grasses.

Poet Hill’s lecture and magazine audiences also delight in the wonder of his words. To him, the ruby-throated humming bird is “a tiny bobbin… winding and trailing the touchless silver threads… a lace of gossamer.” When praised for that wonder, however he replies simply “I have done nothing more than a man who digs a ditch and does it well. Simply recorded natural life in a medium that someone else invented; put into words the inarticulate feelings that everyone has. They think that I am telling them, but I’m only stirring their own emotions, voicing the feelings they’ve always felt, but never knew how to describe.”

It might be well if the outlander would beat a path to his door.

A.S.D.

Archival Notes: In the 1940’s Hill developed a technique of using an electric eye to capture birds in flight. Birds would actually take photographs of themselves by passing the eye and triggering the camera. Source: Reading Eagles/Reading Times March 16, 1992.

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