In collaboration with The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Curated by George Dimock.
Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten makes a strong case for Wootten as North Carolina’s most versatile, prolific, and culturally significant photographer in the first half of the twentieth century. These images – modern prints made from her original large-format negatives selected from The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives (UNC-Chapel Hill) -- reveal her to have been inspired by the American pictorialist movement. They consist of landscapes, portraits, and genre scenes set in her native North Carolina and neighboring states. Additional photographs depict the Cone Mills in the 1930s thereby underscoring her ties to Greensboro where she kept a studio from 1925 to 1927. Bayard Wootten’s pictures are delicately poised between photography’s technological imperative to authoritatively represent things as they are and her life-long commitment to use the camera as a means of artistic expression.
Stephen J. Fletcher is the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archivist in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to his appointment at UNC in February 2003, he worked in curatorial positions at the California Historical Society and the Indiana Historical Society. He also worked as a consultant to the Sierra Club, organizing and providing access to its library's photographic collection. Fletcher received a BFA in Photographic Illustration in 1982 from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He began his archival/curatorial career in 1981 while attending RIT through three independent studies and as a summer employee at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House. He then attended the John F. Kennedy University's Center for Museum Studies in San Francisco, obtaining his MA in 1992. Fletcher is an active leader with the Visual Materials Section of the Society of American Archivists, having twice chaired the section. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Photographic and Audiovisual Archives Working Group of the International Council on Archives. Fletcher is also an active photographer; he is a member of Visual Artists Exchange in Raleigh, and has an exhibition title “Some Semblance" at The Framers Corner in Carrborro, N.C.
Can You Help Us?
The cataloguers and archivists of the Wootten collection faced the daunting task of preserving, storing, organizing, and identifying over 600,000 prints and negatives. They had neither the time nor the resources to research this particular group of images. Wootten, herself, was known to be lackadaisical in her labeling and dating. Proximity Manufacturing Company was, at one time, the corporate name embracing a diverse array of Cone Mills enterprises. We would like to know more. Which mills are these – White Oak, Revolution, Proximity? Who are the workers depicted here? When, precisely, were these photographs made? What technical aspects of the manufacturing process are being enacted? The Greensboro community constitutes a vast resource of local knowledge. We invite you, the audience -- local informants with knowledge of the textile industry, family histories, and personal memories -- to contribute to our evolving understanding and appreciation of these images.
“The camera is not a free agent as a brush or pencil, but relentlessly records things as they are. So the artist must bring to her aid strong contrasts of light and shade, artistic groupings and rhythmic lines. To use the camera as a means of artistic expression, a certain quality of spirit must be brought to the aid of light and air.”
-- Bayard Wootten
Photographs by Chris Snow
Photograph by Bayard Wootten, The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC-Chapel Hill