By Deb Christianson
A book more than 33 years in the making is hot off the press and will now be available during the upcoming Schoolcraft Christmas Walk. Elizabeth Hamilton has been photographing Schoolcraft since she took her first darkroom film photography class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 1988. She has been a Schoolcraft resident since she moved here with her husband and son in 1976.
Her latest book, “Have Camera Will Travel in the Historic Village of Schoolcraft, Michigan,” features a cavalcade of photographs, from Schoolcraft residents and Schoolcraft historical places to recent Schoolcraft events. It is a chronicle of her personal journey as well as a chronicle of life in Schoolcraft. Elizabeth has donated her time and photos to the community for charity and other projects for the past 33 years.
Among the photographs in “Have Camera” is Elizabeth’s first prizewinning entry in the WKZO calendar contest. This photo features the interior of Mike’s Barber Shop with Cliff Niskala in the chair, barber Mike Eberstein, and two dogs, Ollie and Ellie. There’s a photo from the 2014 Schoolcraft Christmas Walk taken in the Opera Room on the second floor of what was then Norma’s Antique Shop. Deadwood bluegrass music was entertaining customers. Elizabeth photographed the book signing of “So, I’m Told” by author Mary Jane Swartz in 1989 at the Underground Railroad Museum. Mary Jane’s daughters, Harriet and Nancy, were there. It’s Edna Smith’s book that Mary Jane is signing. Edna Smith owned the oldest house with siding in Schoolcraft.
Elizabeth was great friends with the Swartz family, and her photography of Schoolcraft homes began with a phone call from Harriet Swartz. Harriet wanted to photograph Schoolcraft herself. “I have a camera, and I want to take pictures,” Harriet told Elizabeth, “but my camera isn’t good enough. Can you help?” Their collaboration resulted in two books, “The Porches of Schoolcraft” and “The Kitchens of Schoolcraft.” “The ‘Kitchens’ book took longer to put together,” Elizabeth said, “because Harriet and I actually went inside the house.” This necessitated a neighborly visit rather than a quick pic and run. “Harriet visited with the hostess while I took the photographs,” Elizabeth said. Both books are greatly loved by the Schoolcraft public and are available to view at the Schoolcraft Community Library.
In August of 2000, Elizabeth was granted a press pass by the Secret Service and FBI to take pictures of George W. Bush’s visit to Schoolcraft alongside ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. There were about 7,000 people there that day at the Schoolcraft train depot. That same year, Elizabeth’s photography was in a KVCC End of Year Budget Performance publication that won an award for depicting information graphically rather than solely numerically.
Many Schoolcraft residents will find themselves among the pages of Elizabeth’s book. She will be signing it during the Schoolcraft Christmas Walk, December 6 and 7, at the Ladies Library Building on Hayward Street next door to the Schoolcraft Post Office. The book costs $25.