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
  • 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

  • 127 Seniors.jpg Jay Fox performs for seniors after receiving new prosthesis

    On Friday, April 11, the members of the 127 Senior Center had another good time playing bingo and dominos. Bingo was called by Arlene Simmons and Helen Lord, and the bingo gifts were provided by Bob Folger of State Farm Insurance.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marriage licenses

    Publised April 16, 2014.

    April 15, 2014

  • pleasant hill ramblings.jpg PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: Pancake breakfast held for cancer research

    During the year various groups connected with the Pleasant Hill Elementary School provide a Saturday morning pancake breakfast to support the Relay for Life campaign.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fair Park.jpg Final audition planned for talent show

    Last auditions for Crossville’s Got Talent will be this Saturday, April 19, at 1 p.m. at the Fair Park Senior Center. The center is at 1433 Livingston Rd. It looks like another good show, so miss this one.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • PLATEAU GARDENING: Cool-season lawn grass fertilization and soil tests

    Recently, I got an inquiry about the right timing for homeowners who want to fertilize a cool-season lawn which has bare spots that need over-seeding. An email from a new resident in the Crossville area asked how to take a soil sample and where to have it tested. Since problems with the pH or fertility of the soil beneath can result in chronically thin grass with persistent bare places up top, testing the soil then correcting pH and fertility to match plant needs can be an important first step in maintaining your lawn.

    April 14, 2014

  • IMG953498.jpg It's a great day to fly a kite!

    April 10, 2014 3 Photos

  • Season of fundraising begins

    Spring is in full swing, and this mean there are a host of not-for-profit organizations in Crossville and Cumberland County hosting events over the next few weeks. The first event will begin this weekend with a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

    April 10, 2014

  • 4-25 N&N meeting.jpg Investigative forensic science close to home

    NCIS? CSI? Bones? All fictional! Here in East Tennessee, they have a real investigative forensic expert — Dr. Bill Bass.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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