Snow, Potomac at Scott’s Run

Snow, Potomac at Scott’s Run

ALLAN JANUS (b. 1951, Washington, D.C.)

Snow, Potomac at Scott’s Run, 1986
gelatin silver print  

Collection of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts
Virginia Artists Collection
Gift of Julia J. Norrell

Allan Janus is a respected photographer whose work is included in numerous collections. He is also a museum specialist in the Archives Division of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, from whose photographic collection he selected images for his book Animals Aloft. His work at the Smithsonian and interest in history undoubtedly influenced his tongue-in-cheek website about himself and his work, wherein he creates the fictitious Janus Museum, devoted to the work of an almost equally fictitious itinerant tintype photographer, b. 185?, d. 19??.

Janus’ sense of humor and interest in historically based photographic techniques certainly influence his work. This image of the photographer’s sister’s dog Snow is part of a small series White Dogs of the Potomac. At first glance the subject matter and format suggest 19th-century panoramic albumen prints of the American landscape, but then there is a quirky addition of a little white dog.  

“The photograph is actually a diptych,” Allan Janus wrote, “of two images made with a Widelux, a 35mm panorama camera that I used for many years. The print was made in the lith process,” a subtle and variable photographic process that is known for softening and warming the highlights in an image and hardening and cooling the shadows. “I liked the process,” said Janus, “and I liked making small prints, because I was fond of, and collected, 19th-century photography, and loved the effect of small images—they demand a sort of intimacy. Snow was my sister’s dog, and she enjoyed accompanying me for walks along the Potomac—I sort of regarded her as my Helga, as [Andrew] Wyeth’s Helga paintings were in the news at the time.”