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Red Ribble


Photographer Rufus E. β€˜β€˜Red’’ Ribble (May 14, 1878-December 27, 1967) was born in Blacksburg, Virginia. For nearly 40 years, he traveled Fayette, Raleigh, Kanawha, Wyoming, Boone, and Nicholas counties in West Virginia to photograph coal miners, coal towns, family reunions, club events, church congregations, and school groups.

Ribble produced large panoramic pictures by using a wide-format Cirkut camera. The Cirkut camera, designed for taking photographs of large groups or landscapes, revolves on a geared tripod while exposing the film, making it capable of taking a continuous photograph that can capture a full 360-degree view. Photographs were made by contact printing of the full-size negative, with no enlargement, producing a sharp, clear image. The finished photograph, as printed by Ribble, was eight inches high and up to four feet long.

By 1919, Ribble had moved to the small community of Prince on the New River in Fayette County. Relocating to Mount Hope by 1920, he continued to record images of southern West Virginia until late 1957. It is estimated that he produced more than 600 such photographs during his career. Even today these negatives, some of which are more than 75 years old, produce a clear view of the coalfields as they appeared to the eyes of the photographer. Red Ribble died in Oak Hill.

Written by Melody Bragg