Next Tales of Tryon event to focus on ‘Women Photographers in Tryon, 1900-1950’

Published 12:22 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

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TRYON—Women and their cameras were an essential force in preserving diverse views of twentieth-century American life. Here, as in many other areas, Tryon presented a microcosm of our nation’s artistic endeavors.

On Tuesday, May 7, the Tales of Tryon lecture series offered by the Tryon History Museum and sponsored by the Polk County Community Foundation will feature Lili Corbus, associate professor emerita of art history at UNC, Charlotte, presenting “Landscapes and Locals: Women Photographers in Tryon, 1900-1950.” Corbus will share the intriguing backgrounds of five women photographers who lived in or visited Tryon during the century’s first half and place their works in a historical context.

Corbus, a Tryon resident since 2018, is the author of Photography and Politics in America: From the New Deal into the Cold War (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), as well as numerous articles and exhibition catalogs. She also serves on the Tryon Arts and Crafts School board where she helps curate exhibits. The five women on whom her lecture will primarily focus are:

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Amelia Van Buren (c.1856-1942) Michigan native and painter turned portrait photographer, she was a student and friend of Thomas Eakins. She is perhaps best remembered through Eakins’ highly acclaimed 1891 portrait of her, “Miss Amelia Van Buren.” She spent the later years of her life in Tryon and is buried in Tryon Cemetery.

Margaret Warner Morley (1858-1923) was a Renaissance Woman. Not only a photographer, but an educator, biologist, author and illustrator of children’s and nature books, chronicler of life in the North Carolina mountains, women’s rights advocate, and friend of William Gillette and the Toymakers, she spent many years in Tryon.

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) Raised in Washington, DC, her career as a photographer and photojournalist spanned 60 years. A friend of the rich and famous who served as the official White House photographer during five presidential administrations in the 1890s and early 1900s, she was equally at ease photographing textile workers, coal miners, and tattooed sailors. She traveled North Carolina extensively after being commissioned by the state to record its architectural history.

Bayard Wootten (1876-1959) The only native Tar Heel in the group, she is often considered the state’s first professional woman photographer. Over the course of a 50-year career, she covered North and South Carolina from mountains to coast, capturing over 600,000 photographic images. Along the way, she became the first female member of the North Carolina National Guard and has been given credit both for designing the original Pepsi-Cola logo and for being the first woman to take aerial photographs.

Hansel Mieth (1909-1998) was a German-born photojournalist who worked for Life Magazine and excelled at commemorating the everyday lives of ordinary Americans. Her late 1930s photos of life in Tryon present an iconographic portrayal of the time and place.

All are invited to the Holy Cross Episcopal Parish Hall, located at 150 Melrose Avenue in Tryon, on May 7 to learn more about this fascinating slice of American life.  Doors open at 4 PM for refreshments, with the lecture beginning at 5. Admission is free.


Submitted by Dick Callaway