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The San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff Through the Lens of Time

(1 customer review)


Watch more than 150 years unfold in over one hundred historical photographs and drawings precisely paired with their modern-day counterparts.

SKU: time-book Category:


“Meticulously documented repeat photographs provide the context that helps us understand our beautiful and challenged mountain landscape.”–Peter Z. Fulé, Regents Professor of Forestry, Northern Arizona University

In this eye-catching visual essay celebrating the San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff, watch more than 150 years unfold in over one hundred historical photographs and drawings precisely paired with their modern-day counterparts.

Ecologist, educator, and writer John L. Vankat reveals the telling details that bring the past alive. The result is an invitation to time-travel, appealing to anyone interested in nature, culture, or history.

Foreword Clarion Reviews gave this special book a five-out-of-five review, calling it “an engrossing trip through time” that offers “a scintillating look at the history of the region.” Read the Foreword Clarion review here.

Here in these striking landscapes at the apex of Arizona, humans have altered much of the natural environment, but the storied San Francisco Peaks remain a touchstone of beauty and emotion. Vankat gives us a chance to see and celebrate this special place as it was, to understand it today—and to consider what its past and present say about the future of the American West. [320 pages, 9×11 inches]

“Engaging, historically revealing, and scientifically sound, this book sets the standard for documenting long-term regional landscape changes.” –William Wallace Covington, Emeritus Founding Executive Director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University

Buy it now by clicking”ADD TO CART” above! If you live in Flagstaff, avoid shipping charges by ordering from Soulstice. We offer convenient pickup options. Of course, we’re also happy to mail books in Flagstaff or anywhere in the US and Canada, and we package with care to ensure safe delivery.



“By coupling historic photos with eerily precise repeats, Through the Lens of Time delivers an opportunity to see past and present side by side. More than a balm for simple curiosity, the work reveals a history invisible to the current-day Flagstaffian and offers insights for the construction of our future.” Sean Golightly, Arizona Daily Sun, 10/30/22. Read Golightly’s full review of the John L. Vankat book The San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff Through the Lens of Time

“…the author’s meticulous, accurate eye when composing repeat images clearly shows ecological and cultural changes around the San Francisco Peaks. This is a fascinating compilation that will educate and interest readers…” Susan Deaver Olberding, Flagstaff historian and author

“Vankat’s precise, straightforward observations are balanced by the poetry of his images.” Foreword Clarion Reviews

“Reading it is like time-traveling with the author across more than 150 years of environmental change. John’s deep-dwelling respect for photographic and historical precision and his knack for storytelling combine in this unique ‘then and now’ journey…” Karen and Dave Washabau, longtime enthusiasts of Flagstaff’s outdoor treasures

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this richly illustrated volume of repeat photographs is positively priceless… an engrossing page-turner that will appeal to anyone who has passed through this forested mountain town.” Kevin Schindler, historian and public information officer, Lowell Observatory

“…the final product of his research and fieldwork is impressive in quality and extent. Dr. Vankat uses three images for each camera station—the original (black-and-white), a repeat black-and-white, and a repeat color image. This triptych-approach enables the reader to observe change over time (and formats) for the subject of each image. This book will appeal to a broad audience ranging from scientists and scholars to the general public.”
Peter Runge, Head, Special Collections and Archives, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University

“John Vankat´s faithfully documented repeat photographs show the changes and the continuities over the century and a half since photography arrived in northern Arizona. Historic photographs are time capsules of culture, technology, and ecology. Their transitions to modern images reveal the links that led to our current environment, providing the context that helps us understand our beautiful and challenged mountain landscape.” Peter Z. Fulé, Regents Professor and Charles O. and Mary Minor Professor of Forestry, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University

“John Vankat has produced a book that captures the landscapes surrounding the San Francisco Peaks like no other effort. … His repeat photography project included a major effort in hiking and seeking out exact perspectives. John’s project captures historical viewsheds and preserves a unique historical element of the geography of Flagstaff and the San Francisco Peaks.” J.R. Murray, longtime Flagstaff resident and member of the Fort Valley Plan Committee

“This book’s side-by-side photographs tell a fascinating story about the history of Flagstaff and surrounding area and the changes that have occurred over the years. Required reading for anyone interested in local history.” Charles Babbitt, third-generation Arizonan and past president of the Maricopa Audubon Society

“John Vankat has captured the history of northern Arizona in combination with fascinating photo comparisons, in a way that makes this book an essential addition to the coffee-table collection. I spent a number of years as a Coconino County Supervisor for the area from Flagstaff north to the Utah border and can attest to his precise research combined with a genuine affection for the region. I strongly recommend his book to those having an interest in this, the most beautiful part of our country!” Carl Taylor, former Coconino County Supervisor

This book is for anyone who wants to understand the effects of time and development in America’s southwestern forests. Buy yours today!

Special bulk pricing is available for orders of 20 or more books; click here for details.

Dimensions 9 × 1 × 11 in

1 review for The San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff Through the Lens of Time

  1. Karen Washabau

    John Vankat is devoted to the study and teaching of forest ecology. Since the 1960s, John’s work as a researcher and educator and his love of the outdoors have guided his life. (He even lives in a forest.) Luckily for us readers, he is also a great storyteller and photographer. In The San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff Through the Lens of Time, John blends his knowledge and skills to describe the captivating natural history of Flagstaff, Arizona, a mountain town wrapped in volcanic fields, thick pine forests, and shimmering aspen groves.
    John’s story is about 150 years of environmental change in the Flagstaff region. Some of the transformation is natural and inevitable, some human-caused and regrettable. But John doesn’t just tell about change; he shows it dramatically with then-and-now photographs that span 150 years. The book is both a love letter to Flagstaff’s natural beauty as well as a cautionary tale. In 150 more years, what will Flagstaff look like? What about the natural surroundings that you treasure?
    This handsomely produced book is for anyone who has ever lived near, camped in, hiked in, or otherwise treasured forests and wildlands. I am one of those people. I am not a scientist or an historian or a photographer, but Through the Lens of Time captured my interest from page one and each time I pick up the book, I find new ideas to contemplate.

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