In North Carolina, Photography by Eudora Welty

General / People / Places / June 21, 2017

Before she was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Eudora Welty was a photographer.

She studied English at the Mississippi State College for Women and the University of Wisconsin, and advertising at Columbia University. Unable to find work in New York during the Great Depression, she returned home in 1931 to Jackson, Miss. She worked for a local radio station, and wrote about Jackson society for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

But in 1933, she started working for the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, documenting everyday life in Jackson – in words and photographs.

Now 18 of the author’s hand-picked, black-and-white images are on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

“The photographs have the same sensibility as you’ll find in her writing,” says Linda Dougherty, chief curator at the museum. They’re a kind of window into the South – showing a very personal, intimate relationship with her subject matter.”

There’s the young girl in “Child on the Porch 1939,” the feather-clad “Pageant of Birds,” the confidential “Farmers in Town,” and the evocative “Woman of the Thirties (Jackson).”

“They’re very compassionate views of ordinary people who you might not look twice at otherwise,” she says.

The 18 photographs were a gift to the museum from Robert P. Venuti. Before she died in 2001, Welty personally selected the images from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in 1992, where she’d already donated her negatives. Then she had prints made.

All of them were taken in the 1930s and ‘40s, with a look familiar to the Depression era. “They’re reminiscent of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans,” she says.

And they read as tellingly as one of Welty’s short stories.

Credits:
Eudora Welty, A Woman of the Thirties (Jackson), 1930s– early 1940s, printed 1992, toned gelatin-silver print, 17 1/4 x 12 1/2 in., Gift of Robert P. Venuti in honor of Lawrence J. Wheeler, © 1992 Eudora Welty, LLC, Courtesy Eudora Welty Collection–Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Eudora Welty, Pageant of Birds (Farish Street Baptist Church, Jackson), 1930s–early 1940s, printed 1992, toned gelatin-silver print, 17 1/4 x 10 in., Gift of Robert P. Venuti in honor of Lawrence J. Wheeler, © 1992 Eudora Welty, LLC, Courtesy Eudora Welty Collection–Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Eudora Welty, Farmers in Town (Crystal Springs), 1930s– early 1940s, printed 1992, toned gelatin-silver print, 17 7/16 x 12 5/8 in., Gift of Robert P. Venuti in honor of Lawrence J. Wheeler, © 1992 Eudora Welty, LLC, Courtesy Eudora Welty Collection–Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Eudora Welty, Child on the Porch 1939 (Jackson), 1930s– early 1940s, printed 1992, toned gelatin-silver print, 17 1/4 x 12 3/4 in., Gift of Robert P. Venuti in honor of Lawrence J. Wheeler, © 1992 Eudora Welty, LLC, Courtesy Eudora Welty Collection–Mississippi Department of Archives and History

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Michael Welton




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1 Comment

on June 25, 2017

These images are beautiful. I had no idea she was also a photographer. Thank you for this captivating post.



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