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HomeContents > People > Photographers > James Yarnell

Dates:  1917, 18 January - 2011, 19 July
Born:  US, KS, Little River
Died:  US, KS, Wichita

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for James Yarnell
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

A lifelong resident of Kansas, James Yarnell was born on January 18, 1917, in the small town of Little River. At age ten, he moved with his parents to Wichita, where he attended high school with fellow student W. Eugene Smith, later the great photojournalist.
During the late 1940s, Yarnell briefly practiced pictorial photography. In 1947, he was a member of the Wichita Photographic Society and served on the organizing committee for the Fourth Wichita International Salon of Photography. Two of his prints were accepted in this exhibition, which hung in the Wichita Art Museum during the summer. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts one photograph by him, Quartette, is a close-up of organ pipes, formally framed and crisply printed.
Yarnell started photographing professionally in the late 1930s. During World War II, he became a U.S. Army staff sergeant, served as a combat cameraman, and earned a bronze star for his efforts in Burma and India. He returned to Wichita after the war and became deeply involved in aerial photography. He acquired his pilotís license and worked for Beechcraft Aircraft from 1952 to 1982. During the 1950s and 1960s, he provided photographs for many aerial books and magazines, most prominently This is My Land, a 1962 collaboration with the noted aviation writer Martin Caidin. The publication, the result of 55,000 miles of flying together, includes black-and-white images from every state, showing cities, towns, rivers, lakes, mountains, and other manmade and natural sites across the country.
After retiring from Beechcraft, Yarnell devoted himself to printing and publishing miniature letterpress books under the imprint of the Oak Park Press. In 2010, the Wichita Art Museum showed photographs from This is My Land. A year later, on July 19, 2011, Yarnell died in Wichita. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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