John Shaw (1942–2010) was a prolific wildlife photographer and painter strongly associated with Virginia, where he was born and made his home. Quitting his day job as a military satellite tracker in 1982, Shaw, largely self-taught, committed himself to his art, which appeared in countless incarnations—as paintings in private homes, in wildlife magazines and illustrated calendars, on postage stamps and birdseed packages.
The 35mm images in our collection demonstrate a technical sophistication and commitment to realism and detail for which Shaw’s later work was so widely admired. Striking shots of songbirds taking wing, casting shadows on what are apparently artificial backdrops, intermingle with more casual photos of Copper and Butch, the family spaniels, and colorful domestic interiors featuring a reserved older couple, probably Shaw’s parents. Other images include opossum and deer, skunks and flying squirrels, a dozen species of songbird, as many national and state parks, and locales such as California wine country and the covered bridges of Pennsylvania. Of special interest to Virginians may be Shaw’s photos of Monticello, Shenandoah National Park in autumn, and the Blue Ridge Parkway—with images of Mabry Mill and the Puckett Cabin, home of “Aunt” Orelena, the famous midwife. While most of the slides themselves are undated, images of the Seattle World’s Fair place their creation in the early 1960s.
The 1,288 Kodachrome slides are arranged as received, labeled by location or subject, apparently by the photographer. Subject categories include places (22 sheets), Virginia locales (6 sheets), national and state parks (16 sheets), songbirds (17 sheets), wildlife (7 sheets), and pets (2 sheets).