Episcopal Bishop Frederick Putnam tended to his many flocks in Minnesota and in the desert Southwest with his camera in hand. After graduating from Central and the University of Minnesota he became an award-winning photographer and had a steadfast, pioneering and passionate ministry that was a reflection of his artistic personality.
As an artist, he had the ability to see humor and the depth of relationships and he really helped others to see what he saw.
Putnam was honored by the Photographic Society of America in the mid-1980s. The organization recognized him "for using photography as a communication skill." His photos had been shown in hundreds of international exhibitions. He also lectured on darkroom work.
Putnam was ordained in 1942 after completing seminary studies at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
He served congregations in Windom and Worthington, Minn.; Iowa City, Iowa; and Kansas and Illinois. In 1963, he became an assistant bishop serving the state of Oklahoma, later becoming a bishop.
During the 1960s and '70s, Putnam worked to modernize American Episcopalians' prayers rooted in England's Elizabethan times.
In 1979, he was appointed as the first resident bishop of the Navajoland Area Mission, then an experimental ethnic diocese. There, he could be seen riding in his Jeep Cherokee as he served his 12 congregations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.
When Putnam faced mandatory retirement as an active bishop in the early 1980s, he withstood joking censure from his superiors for having the "gall" to drive a Jeep Cherokee around the Navajo reservation.
Putnam had a bit of what the Navajo culture called the "Trickster" in him and his Indian congregations apparently didn't mind the Jeep, either. There were a lot of things that symbolized his affection for his Navajo congregations. Putnam continued to wear Navajo-themed vestments and a turquoise and silver pectoral cross that were gifts "from people who loved him."
Putnam became an assisting bishop in Minnesota shortly after his retirement. He performed pastoral duties and helped train new church leaders. He also once served as president of the Minnesota chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog group.
"Fred was a man who always stood for the rights of others," it has been said.
Contributed by John Leak, CHS 1943