March 15th 1959: The Photography of Irene Gillette

61 years ago yesterday, it snowed 25.5 inches in Galena Illinois. Irene Gillette set out with her camera to document the snowfall and show its impact on the streets of Galena.

The Galena Public Library District’s Galena Area Historic Photos Collection includes 1,100 photos of Galena from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries. Of the photos in the IDHH, 370 of them are Gillette’s photos of the everyday. From cocker-spaniels laying in the grass, and self portraits with quippy captions written on the reverse, Gillette’s attention to her surroundings seems to come from an intense familiarity with them, where mapping her town is less the point than showing its eccentricities; documenting unique and noteworthy moments, such as a historic snowfall, her photographs historicize everyday life.

Here are five photos from her walk around Galena on March 15th, 1959:

Big Snow of March 15th, 1959. Photograph by Irene Gillette. Galena Public Library District. Galena Area Historic Photos.  Permission to display was given by Galena Public Library District.
Snow on a mailbox at the intersection of Main Street and Washington Street in Galena, Ill. 1959. Photograph by Irene Gillette. Galena Public Library District. Galenea Area Historic Photos. Permission to display was given by Galena Public Library District.

Snow on Green Street Steps. 1959. Photograph by Irene Gillette.Galena Public Library District. Galene Area Historic Photos. Permission to display was given by Galena Public Library District.

Snow in the alley off HIll Street Between Main and Bench Streets. 1959. Photograph by Irene Gillette. Galena Public Library District. Galena Area Historic Photos. Permission to display was given by Galena Public Library District.

The Big Snow. 1959. Galena Public Library District. Photograph by Irene Gillette. Galena Area Historic Photos. Permission to display was given by Galena Public Library District.

The rest of the Galena Area Historic Photos can be found at this page and all of Irene Gillete’s photos in the IDHH here. She’s one of my personal favorite photographs on the IDHH site. It’s always exciting to find a new photographer in the IDHH whose work in some way creates an image about the culture of their town. The entire Galena Area Historic Photos Collection is particularly unique, containing the photography of multiple amateur community documentarians.

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