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~ This Gallery celebrates Hermon Atkins MacNeil,  of the Beaux Arts School American classic sculptor of Native images and American history.  ~ World’s Fairs, statues, monuments, coins, and more… ~ Hot-links ( lower right) lead to works by Hermon A. MacNeil.   ~ Over 200 of stories & 2,000 photos form this virtual MacNeil Gallery stretching east to west  New York to New Mexico ~ Oregon to S. Carolina.   ~ 2021 marks the 155th Anniversary of Hermon MacNeil’s birth. ~~Do you WALK or DRIVE by MacNeil sculptures DAILY!   ~~ CHECK it OUT!

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Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947) – “Hopi” (Obverse) and “Prayer for Rain” (Reverse)  Society of Medallists (SOM), Issue #3 of 1931, was based on MacNeil’s “Moqui (Hopi) Runner” statue of 1897.  This was the only SOM issue that MacNeil would ever sculpt.  Yet nearly fifty years later (1943), he vividly described these images of his 1895 travels to the Hopi (Moqui) Mesa in his Autobiographical Sketches.

MacNeil’s brief artists intro accompanying the medal is as follows:

Four examples of various finish patinas medals that MacNeil selected for SOM#3 in 1931 (from collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Four examples of various finish patinas on medals that MacNeil selected for SOM#3 in 1931 (Reverse view. From collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

“The two incidents of the Hopi Prayer for Rain on the mesas of northeastern Arizona depicted on this medal are chosen by your sculptor because of the extraordinary vital enthusiasm and power that the Indians throw into this ceremony. Having witnessed it and been thrilled by the intensity of their emotion and on further study by the complicated and perfectly natural development of this drama, I cannot help feel that in it we find a basic note underlying all religions. All these Southwest Indians, living as they do in an arid region, have developed their religion along the lines of their greatest need –water.”

In the documentation accompanying each medal, MacNeil offered the following additional narrative of his witnessing of this ritual nearly 36 years earlier while on his 1895 venture to the Southwest with Hamlin Garland and Charles F. Browne:

This is one of their greatest and most important ceremonies. Occurring in August, it is filled with ritualism for nine days and in their kiva, an underground chamber, they have ceremonies with these snakes that have been gathered by the antelope and snake clans of their tribe for six days, from the north, east, south and west, also from above and below, therefore from all the directions of the universe. These snakes, so far as our best authority goes, although a portion of them are poisonous varieties, are not tampered with but are handled freely by the Indians, both during their underground ceremonies, and later on the last day above ground, in their public ceremony. During the last day ceremony they dance two and two, one with the snakes in his mouth, sometimes two at a time, while the other, accompanying him, wards off the head of the snake from the face of his companion with an eagle feather. It will be remembered that the eagle preys on the snake in nature and the smell of the eagle feather is supposed to frighten the snake with the intention of preventing him from biting.  This ceremony was so intense and apparently so vital to them that although I myself saw two Indians bitten, they seem to be so completely under the control of the spirit that although I watched for further developments, yet there seemed to be no swelling or poisonous effects from the bites.

Even though the dancing takes place after the participants have taken hardly any food during the nine days, yet immediately after the public ceremony, which is performed in a circular action around the sacred stone on the mesa at Waslpi, they each take an emetic. After circling twice around the sacred rock, the one bearing snakes in his mouth emits them and a third follower immediately grabs the snake from the ground and carries it back to a little improvised enclosure of cottonwood boughs. After all the snakes have been used on this manner each Indian grabs into the bunch and with his hands filled with the snakes, each one starts running down the trail off the mesa onto the plains as shown on the reverse side of the medal and figuratively deposits the snakes again in their underground abodes.

Obverse of SOM#3 by Hermon MacNeil (collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Obverse of SOM#3 by Hermon MacNeil (collection of Dan Leininger, webmaster)

Behind the heads of the dancers on the obverse is shown the sand picture drawn by the Indians themselves with colored earths on the floor of their kiva or underground chamber, about which they performed sacred ceremonials previous to the public dance. On this side of the medal the attempt is also made to show the apparent basic reason for the use of the snake in this prayer for water. This reason or theory seems to have evolved from the similarity in action between the snake on the earth and the lightning in the sky. The Indian, however, has evolved the theory of a kind of cousinship through these angular moving reptiles with the still more angular movement of the lightning to jar the rain clouds for rain, thus making their chief need their strongest prayer. Curiously enough, although there had been no sign of rain for weeks, the day following the remarkable ceremony, a little cloud appeared in the sky and the next day it rained copiously.” 

[ SOURCE: Society of Medalists documentation accompanying the medals; reproduced at “Medals4Trade” ]

1931 "Moqui Rain Dance" (reverse) SOM #3 ~ Dan Leininger, webmaster

1931 “Moqui Rain Dance” (Obverse) SOM #3 ~ Dan Leininger, webmaster

1895
Hermon Atkins MacNeil, American Sculptor (1866-1947)

MacNeil’s bronze of Blackpipe, a Sioux warrior he befriended in 1893 (source Smithsonian Archives)

December of 1895 was an exciting time in the life of Hermon A. MacNeil — A time when he was described as “the most happy young man I know.”

Chicago. In fact, 1985, in general, had been a productive year for the sculptor.  Following the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, times had been tough for both artists and Fair workers.   MacNeil had found Black Pipe, (the Sioux from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), cold and hungry on the streets of Chicago.  He took him in as studio help and a model for future sculptures. 

Marquette.  During 1895, Hermon had completed the four bronze panels depicting the life of Fr. Jacques (Père) Marquette.  They were put in place over the four entry doors of the Marquette Building (CLICK HERE) where he and his artist friend, Charles F. Browne, shared a studio. 


Panel 4 – “The de Profundis was intoned ..

According to information from the MacArthur Foundation (current owner and curator of the Marquette Building), Amy Aldis Bradley wrote in 1895 to Peter Brooks:

After commissioning MacNeil for the exterior bronzes, Aldis wrote to Peter Brooks, “McNeil’s [sic] panels are being placed in position. It is greatly to their and his credit that these bas-reliefs have won for him the Roman [Reinhart] Fellowship. The Commission, choosing him as the best of the very young men…The young sculptor was married on Christmas Day, and sailed for Rome on Wednesday, and is, on the whole, the most happy young man I know. He is very grateful to the owners of the Marquette Building.” (http://marquette.macfound.org/slide/herman-macneil/ )

 Rinehart Prize. In December,  he received news that he had been named as recipient of the Rinehart Roman Scholarship for study in Rome.  Newspapers such as the Nov. 25, 1895 Chicago Tribune (CLICK HERE), and the Dec. 22, 1895 -New York Sun, (CLICK HERE) (columns 5 & 6), contained the news of the selection of this 29 year-old western artist to receive the Prix Rome.

H.A.MacNeil ~1895 sketch - Chicago-Sun
H.A.MacNeil ~1895 sketch – The Sun (New York City)

The sculptors on the committee that selected MacNeil for the  award were the ‘giants’ among American sculptors of the 19th century. As mentioned in the above newspapers, the Rinehart Roman committee included Augustus Saint Gaudens, John Quincy Adams Ward, and Daniel Chester French

These famous sculptors were in the prime of their careers.  Saint Gaudens, at 47, had been the sculptural advisor for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  One tradition suggests that MacNeil asked Saint Gaudens for a letter of reference to Phillip Martiny that got him work on the  that Exposition in  1893. John Quincy Adams Ward, at age 65 was the ‘grandfather’ of American sculptors, and the founder as well as standing president of the National Sculpture Society. Daniel Chester French, age 45, was also a founding member of the National Sculpture Society, and sculpted the colossal sixty-foot golden “Republic” centerpiece statue for the Chicago Fair. ( A thirty foot tall miniature golden replica of which still graces Jackson Park in Chicago today.)

Marriage:

On Christmas Day 1895, in Chicago, he married Carol Louise Brooks, also a sculptor. Earlier MacNeil was informed that he had won the Rinehart Roman Scholarship. Following their wedding, the pair left for Rome, passing three years there (1896-1899) and eventually spend a fourth year in Paris where their first son, Claude, was born.  During those years they study together under the same masters and  live on the shared income of Hermon’s Rinehart Scholarship.  (Carol  had also studied sculpture with both Lorado Taft and Frederick William MacMonnies and been a member of “The White Rabbits” ~ a self christened group of women sculptors called in to complete the massive work load of ‘staff’ statues needed for the Chicago Fair in 1893. )

Future:

Other events from 1895 would later unfold into sculpture-opportunities for Hermon MacNeil. In May in Greenwich Village, New York City, Stanford White, with assistance from both Frederick MacMonnies and Phillip Martiny, completed a permanent Washington Arch. 

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1895 photo of Empty pedestals on the new Washington Arch with New Yorkers strolling into the popular park.  The skyline includes Judson Memorial Church tower to the right of the Arch.  NYC Citizens would wait more than twenty years before the MacNeil and Calder tributes to George Washington as Commander-in-Chief and as President would be commissioned and put in place in 1916 and 1918. (Photo credit: NYC -Architecture.com: ~  http://nyc-architecture.com/GV/GV046WashingtonSquareArch.htm)

The first one, made in 1889 of paper and wood, commemorated the centennial of  the inauguration of  George Washington.  Received with great popularity, the citizens of NYC demanded a permanent Arch monument for their first President.  White’s design was dedicated on May 4, 1895 with two empty pedestals, meant for statues of Washington.  These niches on the north face of the monument remained empty for almost two decades before MacNeil’s statue of Washington as Commander-in-Chief would fill one pedestal (east side, in 1916), and Alexander Stirling Calder’s statue of Washington as Statesman would fill the other (west side, in 1918).

 

"Moqui Runner", "Prayer for Rain"

"A Primitive Chant"

A MacNeil "Sun Vow"

"A Chief of the Multnomah"

 

Chief Manuelito of the Navajo sculpted by Hermon A. MacNeil in 1895 two years after the Chief's death at age 75.

This topic seems a strange fit for a website devoted to the art of Hermon Atkins MacNeil, an American Sculptor of the 19th and 20th centuries, born in Massachuesetts of Scottish descendents. 

Please, bear with me briefly while I take you on a journey toward today’s Native American Day story.  

STEP ONE:  An arrogant sense of Manifest Destiny often accompanied many 19th and 20th Century concepts of American culture, history, and pride.  An inescapable irony in our own 21st Century, is that Hermon MacNeil and many of his contemporary sculptors placed many Native American images at the center stage of the historical and allegorical sculptures of World Fairs from 1890 to 1915.  That is quite visible throughout this website.  I am beginning to find that MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting, especially from 1895-1905, still offers us lessons more than a century later in understanding culture, anthropology and life values. 

STEP TWO:  Today is Native American Day in South Dakota, my home for the last 31 years.  I understand that California is the only other state celebrating a Native American Day.  “In 1989 the South Dakota legislature unanimously passed legislation proposed by Governor George S. Mickelson to proclaim 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation” between Native Americans and whites, to change Columbus Day to Native American Day and to make Martin Luther King’s birthday into a state holiday. Since 1990 the second Monday in October has been celebrated as Native American Day in South Dakota.” [ Wikipedia: Native American Day:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_Day ]  In April 1993, Governor George Mickelson, a friendly giant of a man, and eight civic leaders were killed in a tragic plane crash in Iowa.  His death was a great loss to this state and to hopes of Reconciliation.  We still observe the day, even if it is in a subdued fashion.

STEP THREEI am Daniel Neil Leininger, founding webmaster of HermonAtkinsMacNeil.com.  I am a Caucasian descendant of Scottish German stock. My maternal grandfather. Thomas Henry McNeil (1860-1932), was a cousin to Hermon Atkins MacNeil (1866-1947).  My mother, Ollie McNeil Leininger, always called Hermon MacNeil her “Uncle Hermon.” My middle name, Neil, was my mother’s gift.  It reminds me of my heritage.

STEP FOUR:  In researching the sculpture of MacNeil in recent years, I have developed a growing sense of “historical irony” in his placement of Native American images to symbolize the vitality of American expansion westward through his cultural era of Manifest Destiny.  His choice moves against the strong current of self-absorption in contemporary cultures, both his and ours.

MacNeil's sculpture design for the Award Medals at the Pan American Exhibitition, Buffalo, NY 1901 (reverse). Note the shields with South and North American continents

EXAMPLES 1-5: See photos above:

EXAMPLE 6:  MacNeil made a Pan American Exhibition Award Medallion with an indigenous North American and an indigenous South American sharing a Peace Pipe.  Probably a corrupted mix of Native images, but it is a allegory, a visually symbolic representation carrying a larger meaning.

THE STORY OF MacNEIL and CHIEF MANUELITO:

MacNeil never met Chief Manuelito.  Two years after his death, MacNeil made a statue of him using only a photograph supplied by trader C. N. Cotton. The year was 1895.  Thirty years earlier, Manuelito had survived the “scorched-earth” missions of the U.S. Army under Gen. James H. Carleton and Col. Kit Carson, the “Long Walk” (a 320 mile forced march of men women and children through the deserts) to Bosque Rodondo, and the imprisonment of Native peoples there for four years. 

Navajo Chief Manuelito - taken between 1868 and his death in 1893. He was a war Chief of the 1860. (photo Credit: ASU- Denver Public Library).

MacNeil made the statue  tribute out of available materials.  He built a wooden frame, a wire mesh surface and sculpted cement around it forming an eight foot two inch tall image of the Chief wrapped in a bright native blanket.   His techniques seem to mirror the many ‘staff plaster’ statues he made for the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair.  He was visiting the southwest that summer with friends Hamlin Garland (writer) and C.F. Browne (artist) to experience the vanishing Native culture at the urging od E. E. Ayers and others.

As the story goes, after he finished he asked Cotton if the piece was acceptable.  Cotton left and brought in a group of older Native women to enter the canvas enclosure where MacNeil had setup a  open-air studio workshop.  After much weeping, the women, one of whom was Manuelito’s wife, came out obviously moved by the experience of being with the piece. 

See my previous stories on Manuelito and MacNeil, and MacNeil’s two friends, Hamlin Garland and C.F. Browne.

Edward E. Ayers was the  benefactor of the three artists  who urged them to make the trip.   A former member of the First California Cavalry Volunteers of the U.S. Army in AZ during the Civil War and the Native American oppressions of the 1860s,Ayers was stationed at the Cerro Colorado Silver Mine (now a ghost town) south of Tuscon in Pima County AZ.  He was in charge of 14 men who guarded the silver mine from robbers.  While there he happened on a copy of William H. Prescott’s Conquest of Mexico placed there by the mine’s owner Col. Samuel Colt, of revolver-fame. Ayers devoured the book repeatedly and began his life-long insatiable interest in Native American literature, manuscripts, and culture.  He became an American business magnate, who is “best remembered for the endowments of his substantial collections of books and original manuscripts from Native American and colonial-era history and ethnology, which were donated to the Newberry Library and Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.”  [ Wikipedia ]   (Editors Note: Ayers passion for understanding and preserving Native American culture continues into the 21st Century  through the legacy of his estate now bequeathed to Newberry Library, Field Museum and related archieves.)

One hundred years after MacNeil make the trip and completed the piece, Joe Di Gregorio, (Gallup businessman and grocer), stepped in to rescue the Manuelito statue.  It was badly needing repair and being stored in a warehouse going up for sale.   Leslie Linchicum of the Albuquerque Journal relays this account in her March 2010 story:

“Longtime Gallup grocer Joe Di Gregorio and his wife, Christine, own the statue. They took custody after the building’s owner, in negotiations to sell to an out-of state buyer in 1983, turned to Di Gregorio and whispered, “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” Di Gregorio didn’t. He agreed to take custody of Manuelito and promised to keep him in Gallup.” [“Navajo Leader Stands Tall” Albuquerque Journal, March 11, 2010]

Now 116 years after MacNeil’s visit, McKinley County Fine Arts Commission in Gallup, NM is restoring the nearly 9 foot fragile artwork that MacNeil built in an outdoor tent.  “Carolyn Milligan, chairwoman of the … Commission, has estimated that it will cost $25,000 to $38,000 to restore the sculpture, which has deteriorated from a hundred years of rail yard soot, showers with a fire hose and a well-meaning but inept repainting.” 

Milligan continues, “The 1,000-pound piece is fragile, …. Wherever it stands, she said, it will probably attract crowds.”  “It’s really quite a commanding piece,” Milligan said. “And it’s for the people.”

BEST WORDS OF THE DAY: “Don’t let the bastards take the Indian.” MacNeil and Manuelito would probably smile to hear those words.  While virtually all of the ‘staff plaster’ sculptures of the World Fairs have crumbled to dust, Manuelito still stands tall. 

After all, he does belong to the people, centuries of people, both Native and otherwise. 

THAT’s WHY I BELIEVE THAT: MacNeil’s embrace of Native American themes in his sculpting from 1895-1905 still offers us lessons in culture, anthropology and life values for the 21st Century.

MORE HISTORY:

1.) For further irony read my previous stories of  the making of Hermon MacNeil’s 1895 sculpture representing Chief Manuelito of the Navajo or read history of this Chief of the Navajo starting here.

2.) William Wroth’s “Long Walk” to Bosque Redondo  also provides poignant insight into this period of the United States management of Native American peoples and the life of Chief Manuelito who was part of that “Long Walk” and signed the treaty of 1868 that sought to restore Navajo lands after the disastrous interventions of the US government.

3.) “The Long Walk”  A Ten (10) Part video story of the Navajo “Fearing Time” accounting atrocities against the Navajo people from 1863 to 1868.  Researched and produced with support of the George S. and Delores Dore’ Eccles Foundation and the Pacific Mountain Network.   Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8 Part 9Part 10.

4.)  “The Long Walk”   For a Navajo perspective view this video by Nanebah, whose great-great grandmother survived “The Long Walk”.

5.) “300 Miles – Or Long Walk Of The Navajo – Richard Stepp”  For a musical tribute with an ‘American Indian Movement’ perspective.

6.) Leslie Linthicum, staff writer for the Albuquerque Journal,  gives a delightful article, “Navajo Leader Stands Tall”.   It offers historical irony from our 21st Century on attitudes toward Native American culture  through her story of the ‘management’ and ‘preservation’ of MacNeil’s iconic statue of Chief Manuelito.

Related posts:

  1. 1901 Pan-American Exposition – Buffalo, New York ~~ “The Rainbow City” (10.3)
  2. MacNeil Sculpture “Meets Me in St. Louis” (20)
  3. Expositions and World’s Fairs ~ Hermon A. MacNeil (15.6)
  4. MacNeil at the 1893 Columbian Exposition ~ ~ ~ THE CHICAGO YEARS ~ ~ (10.8)
  5. https://hermonatkinsmacneil.com/2011/03/26/1904-louisiana-purchase-exposition-saint-louis-worlds-fair/

Sculptures that Hermon A. MacNeil’s exhibited for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

SunVow1-689GS

Picture 1 of 15

Photo Credit: Gib Shell

The above works that Hermon A. MacNeil’s exhibited in Buffalo for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition are listed in:

“The Catalogue of the Exhibition of Fine Arts.” Pan-American Exposition: Buffalo, 1901. (p. 45-46; p. 59).

pp. 45-4. H. A. MacNeil:

#1613. The Sun Vow – Silver Medal, Paris Exposition, 1900.

#1614. The Moqui Runner – Silver Medal, Paris Exposition, 1900 (Lent by E. E. Ayer, Esq)

#1615. Bust — Agnese

#1616. Bust – [Lent by C. F. Browne, Esq.]

p. 59.

MacNeil, H. A., 145 West 55th Street, New York, N. Y. (II*) 1613-1616

*II – indicates MacNeil exhibited in “Group II – Sculpture, including medals and cameos” p. 49.

Some of these people mentioned in that exhibition record were to be long term colleagues, friends and patrons of MacNeil’s art and career.

Charles Francis Browne was a painter and friend who accompanied Hermon MacNeil and author, Hamlin Garland, to the southwest in the summer of 1895. They wanted to gain direct experience of American Indians to inform their art. What the trio found reflected in their respective painting, sculpture and writing.

MacNeil’s subsequent sculptures of Native Americans after that summer of 1895 continued a cultural focus that began with his friendship and sculpting of Black Pipe, the Sioux warrior. He first met Black Pipe at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  The Sioux modeled for MacNeil and later worked in his studio for over a year.

Edward Everett Ayers was an art patron to both MacNeil and Browne.  He had been a Civil War Calvary officer stationed in the southwestern United States.  He became a lumberman who made a fortune selling railroad ties and telephone poles. He urged MacNeil to travel to see the vanishing West of the American Indian.  He became an arts benefactor whose art collections are now housed by the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as, the Newberry Library.

All the above is but a small part of the history woven into this simple Exhibition catalogue entry from 1901.  More later on Macneil’s mysterious “Agnese.”

Related Images:

Hermon Atkins MacNeil's "The Moqui Runner" (The Moqui Prayer for Rain -- The Returning of the Snakes) 1896, cast 1897.

The year was 1895.  Hermon MacNeil, along with two friends (painter, Charles Francis Browne, and author, Hamlin Garland), spent the summer traveling and living in the Territories of New Mexico and Arizona.  There they sought direct experience among the Indians that would give birth in them to a new, truly American art.  “The Indian caught my fancy as it had with many young sculptors,” wrote H.A. MacNeil in his “Autobiographical Sketch.” They became eye-witnesses to the life and culture of the Hopi (formerly known as Moki, and Moqui) people.

“We found Indians a plenty and perhaps because I was keenly interested in them I was in heaven and I flared to a high pitch, working from sunrise to dark,” wrote the twenty-nine year old MacNeil. Like many ethnologists of that period, the Snake Dance deeply impacted his cultural awareness and artistic curiosity.

The Snake Dance ritual involved fifty or more men and lasted for ten days.  As a part of the ceremony the priests would dance with live snakes in their months (presumably making the reptiles the bearers of the prayers of the priests).   The climax of the ceremony involved a four mile run returning the snakes (now endued with prayers) to their natural home.

The long black locks streaming in the wind follow the runners path back to nature and the ancestors.

“There was something superb in all this,” wrote Garland in his “Among the Moki.” Something natural, strong, and wholesome.” Garland described the Runners, with their black hair flowing down over their shoulders, “They ran with the chest thrown out and with light step, which only three hundred years of daily climbing to and fro on this cliff could give.  It was like seeing one of the old Greek games.” (Among the Moki).

MacNeil never forgot the indelible visions of these moments in his artist’s eye. He writes, “Every artist has at various times strong impressions that he longs to express. The sensation received by me from this dance was without doubt the deepest I had received. There was an abandon, fury, and sincerity.”

One reviewer of MacNeil’s work from this period captures their energy and abandon by saying:

MacNeil captures the energy and fury of the ceremonial "Return of the Snakes" in the grip and gaze of the runner.

“In sculpture those fresh, spirited Indians, by H. A. MacNeil, are so strong and full of vigor that they command at once one’s admiration and respect. The strongly developed and “straight-as-an-arrow style”surely marks the Indian as nature’s nobleman.  MacNeil knows just how to bring out their striking characteristics, and even on a small scale the work is grandly conceived.” (Sculptors at the American Art Exhibition.” Arts for America 4 (November 1895) p. 150.)

Snake Dance – For a short history see:http://www.brownielocks.com/snakedance.html

HISTORY NOTE: MacNeil’s experience with the Hopi follows less than five years after tragic deaths of December 1890 — namely, Wounded Knee Massacre — The killing of Chief Sitting Bull and the murder of Chief Big Foot.  For more details of this history view”

http://www.lastoftheindependents.com/wounded.htm and

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_Knee_Massacre

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WHAT YOU FIND HERE.

Here is ONE place to go to see sculpture of Hermon A. MacNeil & his students. Located in cities from east to west coast, found indoors and out, public and private, these creations point us toward the history and values that root Americans.

Daniel Neil Leininger ~ HAMacNeil@gmail.com
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