Walt Whitman Centennial

Life magazine sent Kosti Ruohomaa on a quest to create a photo essay celebrating the 100th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s book of poetry, Leaves of Grass. Twelve of Kosti’s images were published in the June 20, 1955 issue of Life titled, “The Paths Whitman Walked,” with a prominent credit line for the photographer.

Ruohomaa’s photography was a natural fit for the writing of Walt Whitman. Like Whitman, Ruohomaa had an abiding interest in the beauty of ordinary people in all their variety, and in the nobility of everyday work. The two men also seemed to share a sense that landscapes and human subjects were deeply, fundamentally intertwined. Finally, each employed a great deal of craft and care to produce a natural, unassuming effect in their work.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was one of the most influential poets in the United States, often called “the poet of democracy.“ His first volume of poetry, Leaves of Grass, was self-published in 1855, and contained 12 poems. He proceeded to add to and revise the volume many times over his life, the last edition containing over 400 poems. Leaves of Grass, Whitman said, “arose out of my life in Brooklyn and New York from 1838 to 1853, absorbing a million people, for fifteen years, with an intimacy, an eagerness, and abandon, probably never equaled.”

Whitman, Walt. 1997. Leaves of Grass. New York Public Library Collector’s Editions. (XXVI)