Find me a coffee table book -- about power lines!
September 21, 2010 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Are there any coffee-table books with photos of power lines, linemen at work, and such? Ideally rural, last-mile type work (not the giant transmission lines).

My dad spent his working life as a lineman putting up electrical power lines in rural areas. (Think "Wichita Lineman.") He's now in a nursing home with dementia. I thought he might get some enjoyment from a book with photos of power lines, linemen and the like. When he used to travel and we'd be looking at an old castle, he would be studying how they retrofitted the electrical lines and what insulators we used! And sometimes he still talks about the jobs he did.

I've found almost nothing online. I did find a few scholarly "history of rural electrification" type books, but they're very text-heavy and he doesn't read anymore.

If I can't find such a thing, I'll probably buy some stock photos and use a photo printing site to create my own book. But I thought I'd check here first. Thanks for any help.
posted by evilmomlady to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm afraid I have no leads for you, but let me know what you find. My brother-in-law is a lineman and he'd probably love something like that :)
posted by wwartorff at 6:10 PM on September 21, 2010

Best answer: No luck on coffee-table books, but perhaps a magazine like Relay would be interesting.
posted by Paragon at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2010

Best question ever. I have two coffee table book suggestions, though neither is perfect:
- Infrastructure: A Field Guide To The Industrial Landscape. It's a bit wordy, so it may not have the glamour shots you're looking for. It has a chapter on power plants and a chapter on the power grid. The text has illustrations. But he may think "I know all of this already."
- The Great Central Valley: California's Heartland. More glamour shots, but they include farmland, levees, train tracks, a horse pulling a plow, windmills, an orchard, and yes, here on p. 43, some great rural power lines.
posted by slidell at 6:30 PM on September 21, 2010

Infrastructure may not be exactly what you want, but it is coffee-table quality and has lots of photos. The photos tend to be still-lifes, unpeopled, but still very cool to look at.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:30 PM on September 21, 2010

I don't know about coffee table books, but you might try looking into the history of the Rural Electrification Administration. I suspect that their archives might render something.

My grandfather worked for the REA back in the 30s-50s(?) so I've always been interested in digging into their archives some time.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:36 PM on September 21, 2010

I also meant to suggest that you could put together a short DVD with stuff from youtube (for instance 1, 2, 3).
posted by cocoagirl at 6:39 PM on September 21, 2010

You may be able to look up some old phone company type pictures too.
At verizon I know I saw some pretty cool lineman pictures.
posted by beccaj at 6:45 PM on September 21, 2010

Best answer: I hate to disagree, but I own Infrastructure, and it's a beautiful book, but I don't think it's what you're looking for.

A lot of the companies that handled those kinds of projects published coffee-table-ish books for their anniversaries and centennials and whatnot (often distributed mostly internally and/or to prized clients, but many of the people who owned these books have since retired, died or just gotten rid of their old promotional books). Not as easy to get a hold of as something currently in print, but it might be an avenue worth pursuing.

A search strategy involving first Worldcat and then Alibris would be one way to start.
posted by box at 7:57 PM on September 21, 2010

posted by serazin at 11:59 PM on September 21, 2010

Perhaps this book might have some of what you're looking for: TVA Photography: 1963-2008.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:17 AM on September 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone....

Infrastructure, Great Central Valley, TVA Photography - all beautiful coffee table books, but I'm afraid most of this content won't be meaningful to him.

Emperor SnooKloze, I actually started my search with the REA; Dad contracted for them for many years. But the archives are mostly text, few photos - so not what I need for this project. I'm definitely going back there and read some of it myself, though. I think I'll also buy Electricity for Rural America: The Fight for the REA for myself for a little "light reading."

beccaj, for some reason the Power Linemen were always careful to make sure we all knew they were not mere Phone Company guys. Friendly rivalry? The machismo of working with high voltage? He'd disown me over that.

box, my searches on Alibris are turning up nada. Good idea though.

Paragon, I think you're on to something. I like the idea of a subscription. Also, I think I'm going to get The Lineman and Cableman's Handbook - way more text and schematics than I wanted, but the Chapter 15 download shows lots of photo illustrations too.

when I retire, I'm going to travel the country and take gorgeous photographs of linemen at work, and make a coffee-table book, and dedicate it to my dad. I'll let you know when it's ready ;-)
posted by evilmomlady at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2010

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