Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


April 1, 2013

PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: Blankenship shows how compelling black and white photographs can be

CROSSVILLE — We have become so used to color photographs that we often forget how compelling a black and white image can be.

John Blankenship feels that black and white photography lends itself to moods and feelings. It was difficult for him to decide on favorites, and although many of his photographs were for sale at his recent photography show in the Pleasant Hill Community House, there were many that he would not let go. Among them were a sepia print taken 40 years ago of his son, David, when he was three years old; a black and white image of a barn that is so evocative of other East Tennessee barns he has shot; a photograph of his sister; and an enlarged image of a dragonfly on the spines of classical recordings.

For one startling print of four buzzards perched at the very tops of four trees with their wings spread, it took him 30 minutes and two rolls of film to get just the image he desired. His collection is quite eclectic since he captures people and inanimate subjects in very dramatic ways. A few are in color. He enlarged, printed, mounted and framed all of the photographs in the show, but has since given his equipment away.

I purchased a photograph of the Crossville Palace Theatre taken in 1984 before it was renovated. He titled it, “Waiting for Gene Autry.” I also bought a photograph of an oak tree taken in Loudon County that reminds me of my own stately backyard oak.

Blankenship grew up and attended school in Greenback, TN, which is southwest of Maryville. He attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, securing bachelor and master's degrees in mechanical engineering. After graduation he worked as a civilian at the Tullahoma wind tunnel for the Air Force. He retired from K-25 in Oak Ridge after working 34 years on uranium enrichment.

Blankenship was very interested in aviation and model airplanes from an early age beginning during World War II. When he had the money, he would buy model airplane kits at the dime store in Maryville, TN, and try to build them, without much success in the beginning. He picked it up again after graduating from UT.

There were several model airplane magazines being published in those days, and he decided to create some model designs for publication. An immediate problem was that he needed black and white photographs of models during construction and of the completed models. A friend suggested that he join the Oak Ridge camera club and use the club's darkroom. He purchased a 35mm camera, and with the help of friends in the camera club, he learned to develop black and white film and make prints.

Blankenship built and published eight model designs from 1971 through 1975 in Flying Models magazine. That hooked him on the precision and dramatic feel of that type of photography.

Eventually, he gave up aero-modeling activities and concentrated on photography. His main interest has been scenic panoramas. Blankenship used several types of cameras and film sizes over the years, including 4x5 cut film, but found that the 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera suited him best. He recently bought a Nikon digital SLR and has started roaming Cumberland and White counties with this new camera.

The Oak Ridge camera club holds an annual salon, in which he won several blue ribbons and best of show awards. He also won ribbons in the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville and in the Chattanooga Camera Club annual show. The ultimate prize was having a print stolen from a public exhibit at a mall in Chattanooga (it was a cemetery picture). During the 1980s, he had shows at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville and at the Art Center in Oak Ridge.

In 1999, his dormant interest in model airplanes was revived, and he started building and flying models again. There is an active club in Cumberland County with monthly meetings.They fly their models at Buck Creek Airport in the Linary community.

In addition, Blankenship works with the audiovisual system for the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC, and enjoys taking friends on tours of interesting areas around East Tennessee.

The images that Blankenship has captured evoke by-gone eras populated by old general stores, gas stations, municipal buildings, farm houses, barns and the fashions and hair styles that document a particular time in history. If you would like to see Blankenship’s photographs or discuss photography or model airplanes, email him at and arrange for a time. You won’t be sorry.

Text Only
  • On_the_dragon.jpg Road Trip: Region offers challenges, rewards for two-wheeled motorists

    Spring is in the air, and on the road. As the temperatures have steadily risen, so have the number of motorcycles you can find on the road any given weekend, as riders take to two wheels to explore the twisting roads that wind through the region.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo 15 Stories 1 Link

  • Around the Town: Stars will be shining in county this weekend

    Regardless of the weather this weekend, the stars will be shining. Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School will host Prom 2014 Saturday evening... the county’s own “Red Carpet.”

    April 24, 2014

  • FOL sets spring book sale

    The last winter seems to have left the Plateau, and flowers are blooming. Everyone hopes that spring is finally here and that means summer is right around the corner and the need to think about summer reading on the beach or the porch.

    April 24, 2014

  • Melling, Sounds of the Country¬†at Hebbertsburg Community Center

    Jack Melling and Sounds of the Country will entertain at the Hebbertsburg Community Center on Saturday, May 3, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

    April 22, 2014

  • Marriage licenses (Published April 23, 2014)

    April 22, 2014

  • Pleasant Hill Ramblings CSA.jpg Pleasant Hill Ramblings: CSAs are a win-win situation

    Every Wednesday after 1 p.m. from May through October, there is a steady stream of people converging on the kitchen of Heritage Hall on Church St. in Pleasant Hill with baskets and bags. Inside the kitchen there is excited chatter as they discuss the array of vegetables, some varieties never tried before. Farmer Dave Myers and his helpers provide this largesse of vitamins to the members of the CSA.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • plateau gardening.jpg How to collect and submit soil sample

    Garry, a new resident in Crossville, emailed to ask how to gather a soil sample and where to take it to have testing done. Your local University of Tennessee Extension office is the place to go. Those in the Crossville area should call UT Extension Cumberland County at 484-6743. A staff person at the office can explain how to collect soil samples. (Those new in town who may not know where the Extension office is located may also call for driving directions.)

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 5-2 white cane days.jpg Lions Club White Cane Days returns May 2 & 3

    The Fairfield Glade and Crossville Lions Club members will hold their annual White Cane Days fundraiser Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, at several locations. This is a major fundraiser throughout the state of Tennessee and many parts of the world to help assist blind, sight impaired and deaf individuals. This is an event that only happens once a year.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140412_110402.jpg Kids get creative at Youth Expo

    Cumberland Artisans for Creative Expression (CACE) held its annual Youth Expo Saturday, providing young people an opportunity to try their hand at a variety of artistic endeavors, from music and writing to painting and traditional crafts of weaving and spinning.

    April 17, 2014 4 Photos

  • AROUND THE TOWN: The Easter egg hunt that never was

    The Easter Bunny should be able to deliver his baskets in pretty nice weather this weekend. The Good Friday and Easter holiday weekend should feature much warmer temperatures than we had earlier this week when snow showers fell on Cumberland County. Cumberland County students were released Tuesday for spring break, but their last day of school for the week found snow and ice falling from the sky and temperatures in the 20s. Students will return to class on Monday.

    April 17, 2014

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide