Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Today is a special treat for me. I get to share with you a great friend and writer, Velda Brotherton. who has consented to a Book Blog Tour, a book signing without leaving home. Ah, technology. Sit back and take your time to enjoy this technological book signing. Readers who leave comments at the end of this blog will be entered into a drawing, See more details at the end of this article.

Velda is a native of Arkansas and a very unique lady. Her humble beginning isn’t anything like your everyday experience. She was born in a log cabin and spent her younger years listening to family tales spun by her father. Along the way, her historical journey developed.

She has written several books, both fiction and non-fiction. Two them are featured here, Fly With the Mourning Dove and Images in Scarlet.

The first one, Fly with the Mourning Dove, is a true story gleaned from the diaries of mother and daughter homesteading in New Mexico after World War I. This book can be ordered by clicking on the title.

The second book, Images In Scarlet, is a historical fiction about photographer Allison Caine photographed her way west after the Civil War. Click on the title to order this book.

The following is an interesting article about early picture-taking and women photographers.

Women in Photography

Today, all we have to do to take pictures is whip out our digital camera. Then to see the results, we plug it in to the nearest computer. It's instant gratification and something many women enjoy. But think of what was involved in photography over 150 years ago and we might wonder how women ever became involved.

My fictional character, Allie Caine, learned from her father and worked with him during and after the Civil War. In researching this subject, that's what I found most often occurred with women who wanted to become involved in the art of photography in those days. They worked with a man, usually a relative.

It's a fact that few women photographers are cited in the most popular books on the history of photography. But there are several reasons for that. One is that sometimes incorrect history is often repeated and in turn quoted, with the result that it becomes the established lore even when the story may have left out some of the facts. Actually, women were very active in this field and deserve far greater prominence than history has given to them.

Early photography was quite an ordeal, and it's understandable that women might not have been interested in taking up such a pastime. As soon as a plate was exposed it was necessary to develop the picture with smelly chemicals. Plenty of water had to be available. If working outside a studio, the equipment was heavy and awkward to carry. One of the chemicals, Collodion, was first formulated in 1846. It was then, and still is, used as a medical dressing. Made from cotton or cellulose, soaked in nitric and sulphuric acids --- which explains the unpleasant odor --- the cotton is thoroughly washed and dried and then dissolved in ether and alcohol. And add to that how hit and miss the entire process was in that sometimes no picture resulted. Despite this, in the 1850s around 10,000 women were actively involved in what was then known as picture-making.

There is evidence that women did not receive the acknowledgement due to them. Most played a supportive role to their husbands and were then content to accept that he would receive all the credit. Well, at least if some weren't content, most didn't have much choice. Early on, many of those who participated in photography would be relatives of a man who worked in the field. Fox Talbot had a number of female relatives who were active along with him. His wife Constance took pictures and developed and printed them. Emma Llwelyn printed for her husband, John Llwelyn. Robert Tytler photographed the ruins following the Indian Mutiny of 1858; his wife Harriet accompanied him, and though the work received much acclaim, the records only mention the husband's name. Elizabeth, wife of Disderi, famous for his carte-de-visites --- the small oval personal photos often carried in a pocket or reticule --- was in partnership with her husband, and continued to operate in Paris after his death, until her own death in 1878. It says much of the times that her death certificate cites "without profession, 61 years old."

Here are some of the women who practiced photography in the earliest years:

Julia Margaret Cameron b.1815; d.1879, is without question the most well-known woman pioneer in photography.

Laure Albin-Guillot (b. 1880; d. 1962) together with her husband, spent many years photographing specimens, plant cells and animal organisms. She also produced nudes and soft-focus portraits, and wrote articles on photomicrography.

Anna Atkins (b.1799; d. 1871) was a botanist. While women of that time were not encouraged to become involved in science, for some reason botany was a more acceptable area. She was one of the earliest woman photographers. In 1841 she came into contact with Fox Talbot, one of her father's friends. As a botanist, she quickly saw the potential of using photography to record specimens. Her father was an eminent scientist who had various senior posts at the newly created British Museum; many of Anna's scientifically accurate drawings are in the British Museum.

She chose the Cyanotype process for her work --- an appropriate choice, because it was comparatively inexpensive and easy to work with, and its only disadvantage, a blue image, was immaterial. This process, though she was not to know it at the time, was far more permanent than other processes, and much of her work still survives.

In October, 1843, Anna Atkins became the first person to print and publish a book, photographically illustrated with 424 pictures. Called British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, this book was issued in several parts over a period of ten years. Her book precedes Fox Talbot's Pencil of Nature. Though she had a camera, she relied entirely on photograms (known, at the time, as Shadowgraphs). A discovery of one of the very few copies of her book attracted considerable interest in June, 1996, when it was put up for auction.

On her tombstone in Halstead, Essex, her husband is referred to as a JP, but she is simply referred to as "Daughter of..." - again a sign of those times.

Alice Austen (b. 1866; d.1952) was an American photographer. She received a camera at the age of ten, and never looked back. In addition to family and local interest photography, she became involved in documentary work. Having lost her money and home in the 1920s stock crash, she was for a while in the equivalent of a poor house. Ultimately, her work became recognized, and she was able to live comfortably for the last years of her life.

Alice Boughton (b. 1866; d. 1943) was an American photographer whose work included pictures of children, portraits and theatre. For a while she worked in the studio of Gertrude Kasebier. She became a member of the Photo Secessionist movement. Some of her pictures are in Camera Work.

Anne W. Brigman (b. 1869, d. 1950) was an American who produced a number of nude and draped figures in landscape. She was a close friend of Edward Steichen, and exhibited in the Photo-Secession exhibitions. She too had some pictures published in Camera Work.

Christina Broom (b. 1863, d. 1939) has sometimes been referred to as the first British woman press photographer. The number of events she covered included Derby Day, at Epsom, Surrey, investitures of monarchs, women suffrage demonstrations, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat race, and the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.

Nancy Ford Cones (b. 1869, d. 1962) worked in photography in Ohio. Kodak used some of her work for publicity purposes. In a Kodak competition of 1905, she received second prize for a photograph entitled Threading the needle. Edward Steichen winning the competition, and Alfred Stieglitz coming third.

Catharine Barnes Ward (b.1851; d. 1913) was an American photographer who later lived in England. She became associate editor of the American Amateur Photographer in 1890, was a popular lecturer, and a strong supporter of women photographers. She joined the Photographic Society in 1893. The same year she married Henry Ward, the founder and editor of the magazine Practical Photographer. Her works included a well-illustrated Shakespeare's Town and Times, books on Dickens and the land of Lorna Doone.

Jane Wigley, an English photographer, purchased the franchise to operate from Beard, and worked in Newcastle and London. It is stated that she was one of the first to use a prism in the camera so as to reverse the daguerreotype image.

These are just a few of the many early women pioneers of photography. There were many more whose names and work will never be known. Anyone interested in learning more should read A History of Women Photographers by Naomi Rosenblum, published by the Abbeville Press (ISBN 1-55859-761-1). This book has compelling stories of women in the field of photography from the earliest days up to the present. It is available used at priced from $12 through $50.

Don’t forget to leave a comment. Copy and print out the following schedule. Read and enjoy each post, then leave a comment At the end of the tour, the name of everyone who leaves a comment will be placed into a drawing. Four winners will each get an autographed copy of the book of their choice from the two she is promoting. One lucky winner of the four will also receive a silver and turquoise ring from New Mexico. The drawing will be held August 4 and the winners will be posted on her blog.

July 21 -- An Interview with the author
July 22 -- History of photography
July 23 -- Writing the Historical fiction/nonfiction
July 24 -- History of Women in Photography
July 25 -- A photo array of New Mexico
July 26 -- Where Do Ideas Come From?
July 27 -- Sunday--Take the day off
July 28 -- Dance at the Sagebrush Inn, Taos
July 29 -- Edna's story/Fly With The Mourning Dove
July 30 -- To be announced John Dunn, Entrepreneur of New Mexico
July 31 -- Interview with the author

You can visit Velda Brotherton by clicking on her name, visit her web site, and read about her other novels.


Alex said...

Really a old story of a photographer and her camera. Thanks for sharing….

Debby Mayne said...

Interesting information about the history of photography. Although I'm not a great photographer, I've always taken my little camera for granted. Not anymore! Thank you!

Gayle Gresham said...

How interesting! I didn['t know there were so many early women photographers. Thanks for the lesson, Velda! And Gwyn, thanks for hosting Velda!

Gayle Gresham

Fern said...

Great article. I always learn something new from fellow Women Writing the West members.

Velda, I wonder how many times Collodion was commandeered from photographers on the battlefield.

Looks like a great tour.

Fern J. Hill

Author of Charley's Choice: The Life
and Times of Charley Parkhurst a
fictional biography about a well-respected,
one-eyed stagecoach driver during the
California gold rush era who, upon death,
was found to be a woman.

Books, Dissertations & Theses
Edited & Formatted
PH: 610-746-4163

Clients receive friendly personal
contact throughout the process.

Velda Brotherton said...

Hi everyone, Wow, early and already some good comments. Glad everyone enjoyed the post. Gwyn did a great job with her stop on my tour. Congratulations to Gwyn and Fern on their books. Ordering them both. Appreciate all those who are following the tour and checking out my books.

©Hotbutton Press said...

Fascinating bit of research, Velda. Be sure to give Ann Parker this link... she has a femme-photographer in her series, and would be most intriqued.

Yvonne Perry said...

I'm sure glad times have changed for women. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Velda, enjoyed all the information you had about women and photography. Thanks for sharing your hard work and reasearche with us. This is the second time I've commented but apparently the first one didn't go through. Oh, well, I am a techno novice.

Virginia Czaja

Alice Trego said...

What a fascinating topic, Velda! I really enjoyed reading about women and photography, and found myself saying "Hmmm," quite a few times. Intersting subject and have stored this away for my own future reference.

Thanks to Gwyn, too, for hosting Velda on her Book Blog Tour. See you at the next stop!


ilgenwebchat said...

Thanks Velda!! That was a great read. Didn't know there that many women photographers. As you mentioned the things women went through in the early to mid 1800's, I have hundreds of photo's of some of these women and when I look at them I see the pain and anguish in their eyes. That is, besides the point they had to sit for at least five minutes without moving. They really tell a tale. Thanks for sharing!!

Linda Lang

Velda Brotherton said...

Hello everyone, It's great to see so many comments from friends and new friends. So happy you're all following the tour and hope you find the rest of it interesting and fun. See you all there.

Jan Morrill said...


I love your virtual tour, because I don't have to worry about being late or missing it. I can "attend" on my schedule.

Also enjoyed the photography history lesson, and can't wait to read "Images in Scarlet."

Jan Morrill

Velda Brotherton said...

Hi everyone, Some of you are hitting each stop, and I enjoy having you. Be sure to check my blog Aug 4 for the names of the winners of books and the silver and turquoise ring. Hope you all enjoy the remainder of the tour this week.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I enjoyed the article and was happy to also host Velda on her blog tour. Another great early American photographer was Elsa Spear Byron (1896-1992) of Wyoming, whose magnificent photos of Indian tribes and the Big Horn Mountains were displayed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 20 x 30 inch prints to entice passengers to visit Wyoming. A trapdoor in her kitchen ceiling allowed the head of her enlarger to produce huge prints by projecting the light on the floor. The photographs were used as background for a Native American display at a Denver museum.

Jean Henry Mead