Connecticut’s Modern Women Photographers and Their Fine Art Processes

On March 29, the temporary exhibition Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers will be wrapping up, which means that the various events and presentations and tours that I’ve been doing are also just about over. Continue reading

Another Woman Photographer: Edith Watson of East Windsor


Side view of John Watson House, East Windsor. Photograph by Edith S. Watson. The Connecticut Historical Society.

Last week the Connecticut Historical Society opened an exhibition celebrating the achievement of three Connecticut women photographers. Of course, Marie Kendall, Harriet Thorne, and Rollie McKenna weren’t the only women to take photographs in Connecticut. Another woman photographer, who is not well- represented in our collections, but who has always fascinated me, is Edith Watson of East Windsor. Edith (1861-1943) was roughly contemporary with Marie and Harriet. She was an adventurous traveler, who visited Mexico and the Caribbean and traveled up and down the eastern seaboard. Her best-known photographs document rural life in Canada, especially Newfoundland and Labrador. Her work was published in the New York Times, the Toronto Star, and the Newfoundland Quarterly. She always insisted upon receiving a credit line, so it seems surprising that her photographer’s stamp, “EDITH S. WATSON / EAST WINDSOR HILL / CONN.” appears on only one photograph in the CHS collection, a side view of the Watson House in East Windsor Hill. It seems likely that she may also have taken some of the other photographs of the house, which were given to CHS by her sister Amelia, a talented watercolor artist. Although Edith’s photograph was probably part of a series of views taken to document the appearance of the house, the photograph is artfully composed; the shadows of the trees in the foreground take up as much space as the house itself. The John Watson house, on Main Street, East Windsor Hill, was built in 1788-1789 for a wealthy merchant. Edith and Amelia, who were both fascinated by genealogy, would have been well aware of its history.

“F/8 and Be There!”

History of photography enthusiasts might recognize the quote above, generally attributed to Arthur Fellig, a photojournalist in the 1930s and ‘40s. His advice – half technical, half philosophical – was based on the method he found worked best for him, when all cameras were manually operated. The first half refers to the aperture setting on a camera lens; f/8 is an aperture that typically provides optimum sharpness, plenty of depth of field for quick focus, and flexibility to adjust the shutter speed. Setting his camera lens to (f)8 gave him the ability to capture fleeting moments, without wasting time to make technical adjustments. Perhaps in the second half Mr. Fellig (nicknamed Weegee for his uncanny ability to be first on the scene) was suggesting that while it’s always good to be ready for a moment, it’s better to be there when it happens. Continue reading

One of Hartford’s Heroes

In this photograph taken in the early 1870s, the men of Hartford’s Blake Fire Engine Company No. 7 pose with their steam engine. Although the photograph shows only the engine itself, giving the impression that it was self-propelled, it would have been drawn by fire horses. We don’t know much about the men in the photograph, but we do know quite a lot about the man who took their picture, thanks to research by Emma Curry-Stodder, a student at Smith College, who interned in the CHS Graphics Collection in January. To find out more about the short, tragic life of Daniel S. Camp, Civil War veteran, professional photographer, and firefighter, read the article One of Hartford’s Heroes at