Photographer Ann McMahon introduced to McCray during the CLAY Festival

(Photo courtesy of Vic Topmiller Jr.)
Photographer Ann McMahon toured the Chloride Flats mining district with Vic Topmiller Jr., his sons and his former assistant, Andrew Lindlof. The Topmiller family has preserved, through their efforts and expense, much of what remains of the historic mining areas of Chloride Flats.

After Ann McMahon retired from a career in Southern news agencies, she moved to Silver City in 2010 with her husband, Rhett, and quickly found an outlet for her passion photographing the 19 mining districts. Grant County Historic Sites – a project that had never been undertaken.
“We had a list of things we were looking for in a community, and Silver City fit the criteria,” McMahon told the Daily Press. ” We were not disappointed. There’s been a lot of opportunity here, and being able to harness the photography skills – which I’ve brought throughout my working life and having, after retirement, the time to really get into photography – and then seeing an opportunity to say, ‘Wow, nobody is documenting local mining.’
She quickly realized why it had never been done – and that her skills and new free time were creating an opportunity.
“There just isn’t enough money here or enough people,” she said. “Having the resources, the opportunity and the ability to jump in and do it over eight years is pretty good.”
In 2012, she hired an assistant – Andrew Lindlof – and began what eventually turned into an eight-year project to photograph each of the mining districts, while collecting rock and mineral samples from each mine.
“Working with Ann was great – she’s an incredibly driven, confident and driven person,” said former assistant Lindlof. “She puts all her energy into everything she does. She taught me a lot about the basics of photography, which I was completely unaware of. She is a natural teacher.
Lindlof worked with McMahon for the first four years of the mining project, which went on to win the Mining History Association’s Heritage Award. He now lives in Minnesota and works as a hydrologist for the state Department of Natural Resources. As an avid hiker and rabid geologist, Lindlof was the perfect match for McMahon.
“Andrew knew where the mines were, he knew what he was looking at, and he would pick up the rock and mineral samples,” McMahon said. “So not only my photographs, but the rock and mineral samples from all 19 mining districts in Grant County were accumulated.
“This collection was kindly cataloged and housed by Dr. Rick Sauers at the Western Museum of Mining, Colorado Springs,” she continued, “because he knew the Silver City Museum had no space, and he also knew that there were a lot of other people who knew mining who always wanted to know more about Grant County.
Prior to her career in journalism, McMahon was mentored in photography by Jim Layne of Layne Photography in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He sponsored her for acceptance into the Winona School of Professional Photography, operated by Professional Photographers of America, where she earned credits alongside those she picked up locally with the Louisiana Professional Photographers. Over the years she has participated in numerous workshops, the most notable for her being with renowned landscape photographer Charles Cramer and color control guru Bill Atkinson.
“Jim is probably one of the best photographers in Baton Rouge. He had a vital business,” she said. “We were friends — we had met, and he never said that, but he did. apparently saw talent in me.”
Before retiring to Silver City, McMahon became one of the first women to announce and report for radio news organizations in 1970, after earning a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism.
“Believe it or not, women weren’t allowed to broadcast — with very few exceptions,” McMahon said. “Barbara Walters was a true trailblazer, and she had the connections.”
Congress passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act in 1972, and McMahon, who had just graduated from college, sent his tapes to radio stations in anticipation of their hiring. She started her first radio job at KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, with the goal of gaining as much experience as possible. The last station she worked at was WSB in Atlanta, which was on strike when the radio and television sides of the newsroom crossed the picket line, McMahon said.
“I got job offers from everywhere, because of course WSB is heard everywhere – that’s another big deal, another old 50,000 watt station, one of the first in the United States to be allowed,” she said. “One of the offers I received was rather curious; it was from an outfit called Georgia Radio Network. I decided to take the job offer because I think it’s the best way to learn how a radio network works.
After reporting, writing and announcing news for a few years for national networks, she made the decision to pioneer the new industry of state radio networks. She, her husband and friends spent 39 years establishing and growing the Louisiana Network, then the Florida Network and finally the Mississippi Network, which were then sold to their employees. The networks are still operational today.
She also obtained a private pilot license with instrument rating to facilitate travel between the states in which they operated, making their daily commute much easier and faster.
“There were no commercial airlines flying into the southern gulf – you had to have a private plane or rent a jet, and we just didn’t have that kind of money,” she said. declared. “I went out and got this license, and it was pretty dramatic. I remember in the fall starting with Mississippi State and Ole Miss in their program magazines, and having to hire kids to sell them. I literally did in one day what took me a week by car.
A selection of McMahon’s photographs, including his mining series, will be on display as part of the Silver City CLAY festival next week, July 12-16, at Western New Mexico University’s Francis McCray Gallery of Contemporary Art. An artist talk and reception will be held from 5-8 p.m. on July 12, when patrons can speak with McMahon and view his art.
“The McCray Art Gallery finally has a full-time director named Jill Winburn, and she’s quite capable,” McMahon said. “The university is putting staff in there. Jill has big plans for the gallery, and I think it’s probably, if not the best equipped facility in Silver City, it certainly has to be among the best.
McMahon praised Southwest New Mexico ACT director Lee Gruber, who she says has been dedicated to the community and understands that the CLAY Festival, which Gruber founded, is not about how many pots you’ve made, but the soil and the heritage that bring it together. .
McMahon has also worked with Gruber, documenting the interiors and exteriors of historic buildings in the area that include swnmACT’s Five Points initiative that Gruber has worked hard to highlight.
“I’ve always admired Ann’s photography – I think it’s amazing, and the fact that she photographed mines that were abandoned that people just couldn’t see,” Gruber said. “It has always been important for me at the CLAY Festival to show people that there is a lot going on in our land. It’s not just that we get clay and make pots. I’ve always been connected to her and the work she does, so I asked if we could have an exhibit.
The show will be a sampling of some of McMahon’s photographs, which she says are both an artistic and historical exhibit. Each photograph will be labeled, telling the viewer the meaning of the photo. McMahon encouraged the community to come and see his work: “They will learn a lot about their mining history.
“As the new director of the WNMU McCray Gallery, I am proud to play a part in continuing the university’s partnership with the CLAY Festival,” said Winburn. “Having this exhibit at the WNMU McCray Gallery is a perfect way to connect Silver City’s roots as a mining community and the university’s belief that the arts can reveal new things about ourselves and our surroundings. The connections between clay and mining are obvious, and I hope viewers will learn something new from this exhibit while enjoying Ann’s photograph as a work of art.
Find more information and the CLAY Festival schedule at
Jordan Archunde can be reached at [email protected]

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