A chance meeting in 1997 led to a friendship and later to the preservation of a visual record of Jacksonville, much of it about Downtown.
Times-Union Staff Photographer Bob Self was packing up his cameras after an assignment Downtown when he was approached by an “elderly man with a bushy white beard and red suspenders,” he said.
The man was Loyd Sandgren, who identified himself as a photographer and started asking Self questions about his camera equipment. Sandgren then asked Self if he’d like to see some of his work.
Self said he wasn’t expecting much, most likely some amateur snapshots. When he opened the album Sandgren offered, however, Self said he was impressed with the black-and-white prints and knew immediately that Sandgren was indeed a photographer.
That meeting began a friendship that lasted until Sandgren died in 2001, a week before his 85th birthday.
During his career that spanned more than 50 years, Sandgren had amassed a collection of photographs that are now the only record of his work because the negatives were destroyed by water damage, said Self.
Self worked with Sandgren’s family to preserve the albums filled with images. He helped arrange for the photographs to be placed in the custody of the Jacksonville Public Library’s special collections department.
Self also started a website and blog to preserve Sandgren’s life’s work and share the images with the community. He offers copies of the images for sale to cover the cost of maintaining the website.
“Loyd was a friend and I always felt his work had a life beyond just him enjoying it. I felt there was a bigger audience for it,” said Self.
The subject matter of the images is often historic, especially the photographs of Downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, some from as far back as the 1940s.
Much of Sandgren’s work was done for advertising and promotion. There also are photographs of people from Jacksonville who became famous and people who were famous who came to Jacksonville. Much of the collection includes Sandgren’s notes about the images.
Self’s website includes 130 photographs, but the bulk of the collection is on the fourth floor at the Main Library Downtown, where the prints are being scanned and cataloged for the Digital Library Collection.
Library associate Catherine Currier is one of the people who work with Sandgren’s legacy of about 15,000 images.
“A lot of the photos were taken for advertising, but he obviously took a lot of them for pure pleasure,” she said.
To see some of Sandgren’s photographs and learn more about his work, visit www.vintagejacksonville.net.