From Stockton to Shakespeare

May 11, 2015

From Stockton to Shakespeare With Lots of Lectures in Between

A lot can happen in eight months. At the time of my last post I had just published the book The Public Library A Photographic Essay by Princeton Architectural Press. I had also just received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on my current project in Stockton, CA. I spent much of the Spring and Summer giving lectures on the book in the Bay Area, New England, New York City and the American Library Association National Conference in Las Vegas.


Ellen in the San Joaquin copy 3

Ellen in San Joaquin County

RD at Altamont Pass copy 3

Photographing at dawn at Altamont Pass

Cambodians dancing in temple on New Years copy

Cambodians dancing in Buddhist Temple on New Years Day, Stockton

Deuel Prison Library copy

Deuel Prison Library, San Joaquin County

Commuter traffic at dusk, Altamont Pass copy 5

Commuter traffic at dusk, Altamont Pass

Dusk, Chavez Library, Stockton copy

Dusk, Chavez Library, Stockton

Lightroom (DSC_6582.NEF and 1 other)

Drought Food Giveaway, Thorton Community Center, Thorton

Homeless child, one.TLC school copy copy 2

Homeless child reading in public school for homeless children, Stockton

Lightroom (DSC_2919.NEF and 15 others)

ESL students, Adult School, Stockton

Punjabi language lesson, Sikh Temple, Stockton copy

Punjabi language lesson, Sikh Temple, Stockton

Pray for Rain sign, Farmington copy

Pray for Rain sign, Farmington

My wife Ellen Manchester and I have spent the last year working together on our project “Raising Literacy” in Stockton and San Joaquin County, CA. It is a photographic project looking at libraries and literacy in one of the least literate places in the country. In September, Ellen got an offer from her sister Martha that she couldn’t refuse. They traveled together doing a historical tour of Turkey for three weeks. Meanwhile, I spent much of that time traveling to Stockton. I am not sure which was more interesting but I would place my bets on Stockton.

Ellen and Martha Wright in Turkey

Ellen and sister Martha in Turkey

RD BPL Honored Author 2015 copy copy

Honored Author, Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, CA

During the last eight months I have been giving lectures about my book The Public Library throughout California and in other parts of the country. A partial list of public libraries where I lectured include San Mateo, San Francisco, Long Beach, Pasadena, Los Feliz, San Rafael and Campbell, CA. I lectured on my general work at Napa Valley College in Napa and California State University at Fresno. I was the keynote speaker at the Santa Clara Library group, was an Honored Author at the Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, and was honored at the Stanford Humanities Center Publication Celebration at Stanford University. I lectured at the California Library Association Annual Conference in Oakland, CA and also at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Austin, TX.

Professor Dawson working twice as hard at Stanford. Photo by Craig Weiss

Professor Dawson working twice as hard at Stanford. Photo by Craig Weiss

Of course throughout this time I was teaching my usual course load in the Art and Art History Department at Stanford. After retiring last June from teaching photography for twenty-eight years at San Jose State my current teaching assignment feels much lighter. This allows me the time to plunge into these new projects and lectures.

In December, Ellen and I started working on a new commission from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. They have asked us to photographically document their entire library and programming. They are one of the world’s great scholarly libraries and archive of Early Modern northern European history. They also have a wonderful education department, a renowned Shakespeare Theater and exciting exhibition program. This project and the Stockton project both come out of my large national public library project. It is exciting to now work on these two parallel projects that seem to represent the opposite ends of the library spectrum. We hope to produce a book and exhibition from both projects.

RD at Folger copy

Photographing scholars at Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC

Lariat Motel sign, Fallon, NV

Fallon Art Center, Fallon, NV

Finally, in January a group of friends of photographer Jack Fulton all secretly took the Amtrak train over the Sierras to surprise him at an opening of his work at the Fallon Art Center in the little western Nevada town of Fallon. It was a great adventure with a great group of friends and even Jack was a little choked up. Pure fun!

Stay tuned…

1 Comment

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One response to “From Stockton to Shakespeare

  1. Judith Marvin


    Are the Stocktonians becoming more literate? Earth Island will be at Sheep Ranch the last week of this month; perhaps you can joint them…



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