Lora Webb Nichols: Photographs Made, Photographs Collected
Curated by Nicole Jean Hill of the Lora Webb Nichols Archive
On exhibition at Blue Sky April 1–May 1, 2021
Curator talk with Nicole Jean Hill
Thursday, April 1, 6:00 PM PDT on Zoom
Photographs Made, Photographs Collected is a selection of images curated by Nicole Jean Hill from the photography archive of Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962). As a studio photographer and professional photo refinisher in the mining town of Encampment, Wyoming, Nichols created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives over the course of her lifetime. This selection of images chronicles the domestic, social, and economic aspects of the sparsely populated frontier of south-central Wyoming during the early 1900s into the 1930s. Given the period of time the collection spans, the isolation of the Encampment community, and Nichols’ gender, this collection of images is unparalleled in its historical significance and visual storytelling.
Lora Webb Nichols received her first camera in 1899 at the age of sixteen, coinciding with the rise of Wyoming’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 photofinishing service, to help support her family. Her commercial studio was a focal point of the town throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
With an anthropological approach to image making, Nicole Jean Hill is an artist using photography and video to explore familiar spaces and activities within the American cultural and natural landscape. She was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and received a BFA in photography from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and an MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her photographs have been exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Australia, including Gallery 44 in Toronto, the Australia Centre for Photography in Sydney, and Blue Sky Gallery. Her work has been featured in the Magenta Foundation publication Flash Forward: Emerging Photography from the U.S., U.K., and Canada, the Humble Art Foundation’s The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Photography, and National Public Radio. Hill has been an artist-in-residence at several arts organizations and universities, including the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Wendover, Utah, the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, and the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in Humboldt County, California and is a Professor of Art at Humboldt State University.