Cover image for Light and air : the photography of Bayard Wootten
Light and air : the photography of Bayard Wootten
Cotten, Jerry W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xv, 253 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
TR653 .C68 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A trailblazer for women photographers in the South, North Carolina's Bayard Wootten (1875-1959) overcame economic hardship, gender discrimination, and the obscurity of a small-town upbringing to become the state's most significant early female photographer. This advocate of equality for women combined an artistic vision of photography with determination and a love of adventure to forge a distinguished career spanning half a century.

Originally trained as an artist, Wootten worked in photography's pictorial tradition, emphasizing artistic effect in her images at a time when realistic and documentary photography increasingly dominated the medium. Traveling throughout North Carolina and surrounding states, she turned the artistry of her eye and lens on the people and places she encountered.

Having opened a studio in her hometown of New Bern in 1905, Wootten moved to Chapel Hill in 1928, where her clients included the University of North Carolina. Between 1932 and 1941, she also provided photographs for six books--including Cabins in the Laurel , Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina , and Charleston: Azaleas and Old Bricks --lectured extensively, and exhibited her photographs as far away as New York and Massachusetts.

Light and Air features 190 illustrations, including 136 duotone reproductions of Wootten's photographs taken in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee--many of which have never before been published. Though she was an accomplished landscape and architectural photographer, some of Wootten's most notable images were the portraits she crafted of black and white Americans in the lower reaches of society, working people whom other photographers often ignored. These images are perhaps her most enduring legacy.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Wootten (1875-1959), a career woman photographer in North Carolina trained as an artist, took up photography in 1904 and operated a series of commercial studios until the late '40s. In much of her work she pursued a late pictorialist style that places her in the company of another photographer active in the South, Doris Ulmann, whose photographs are much more widely known. The height of Wootten's professional life was the years 1932-41, when she provided photographs for six books, including Muriel Sheppard's Cabins in the Laurel (1935), Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina (1939), and her own Charleston: Azaleas and Old Bricks (1937). Cotten, a photographic archivist (Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), offers excellent biographical and critical text. The book is elegantly designed, and the 136 main illustrations are handsomely reproduced in a warm duotone reminiscent of the originals. In part because of a fire in 1932 that destroyed most of Wootten's early work, the emphasis in the selection of the pictures is on her sensitive portraits and documentary depictions of black and white working Americans in the rural South during the Depression. This meaningful and balanced book brings the work of this photographer to a place it clearly deserves. General readers; undergraduates through faculty. P. C. Bunnell; Princeton University

Table of Contents

The Life and Career of Bayard Wootten Plates