The Alice Austen House hosts an exhibition exploring the theme of home in the work of photographer Lora Webb Nichols.
About the Exhibition
Nicole Jean Hill
From the Lora Webb Nichols’ Archive at the American Heritage Center of the University of Wyoming.
With thanks to the Grand Encampment Museum and Nancy Anderson.
Saturday November 4, 2023. 1pm.
Heap-O-Livin features a selection of images by Wyoming photographer and diarist Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962). Nichols created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives and 65 years of diaries throughout her lifetime in the town of Encampment.
In addition to the industrial and economic aspects of this sparsely populated ranching and copper mining town, Lora’s images and diaries documented the lives of the girls and women within private households.
Despite the inherent isolation created by geography, the long brutal winters, and the patriarchal ideology that undervalued the role of women in Encampment in the late 19th and early 20th century, a robust female-led community emerged that provided a network of spiritual and emotional support. This was cultivated through the habitual visitations of immediate and extended family and friends into each other’s homes during their transition from children to wives and mothers. In Nichols’ sphere, these visitations often involved the act of picture-making.
Lora photographed their duties and mothers and homemakers but also made photographs that reveal the pleasure they experienced in simply being in each other’s company.
This exhibition will be on view November 4th 2023 through February 17 2024 in the contemporary galleries of the Alice Austen House.
An opening reception will be held at the Alice Austen House on November 4th 2023 at 1pm. Curator Nicole Jean Hill and current Heap-O-Livin resident Nancy Anderson.
This exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York State Council of the Arts, Richmond County Savings Foundation, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962) created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives over the course of her lifetime in the mining town of Encampment, Wyoming. The images chronicle the domestic, social, and economic aspects of the sparsely populated frontier of south-central Wyoming.
Nichols received her first camera in 1899 at the age of 16, coinciding with the rise of the region’s copper mining boom. The earliest photographs are of her immediate family, self-portraits, and landscape images of the cultivation of the region surrounding the town of Encampment. In addition to the personal imagery, the young Nichols photographed miners, industrial infrastructure, and a small town’s adjustment to a sudden, but ultimately fleeting, population increase.
As early as 1906, Nichols was working for hire as a photographer for industrial documentation and family portraits, developing and printing from a darkroom she fashioned in the home she shared with her husband and their children. After the collapse of the copper industry, Nichols remained in Encampment and established the Rocky Mountain Studio, a photography and photo finishing service, to help support her family. Her commercial studio was a focal point of the town throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Nicole Jean Hill is an artist using photography and video to explore familiar spaces and activities within the American cultural and natural landscape. Nicole Jean Hill is the co-curator of the Lora Webb Nichols collections, housed at the American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming. Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962) created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives over the course of her lifetime in the mining town of Encampment, Wyoming. The images chronicle the domestic, social, and economic aspects of the sparsely populated frontier of south-central Wyoming throughout the early 20th century. Nicole Jean Hill has been working on preserving this archive in collaboration with Nancy Anderson since 2013, including digitizing the photographs, organizing the corresponding text, recovering the photographer’s diaries and letters, and collaborating with the Grand Encampment Museum and the American Heritage Center to secure a permanent home for the negatives. Her book Encampment, Wyoming: Selections from the Lora Webb Nichols Archive 1899-1948 was published by FW Books, Amsterdam and shortlisted for the Aperture/Paris Photo Photo Book of the Year in 2021.
Nancy Anderson has been a teacher, librarian, and rancher and continues as a gatherer and source of stories and artifacts associated with Carbon County, Wyoming. Her home is Heap-o-livin, Encampment, Wyoming, the former home of Laura Webb Nichols.