Me & Evelyn

Have you met Evelyn?  If not, let me introduce you.

Evelyn Cameron (1868-1928) was a pioneer photographer who came from England with her husband, Ewen, to homestead near Terry, Montana in the 19th Century.  Ewen was a naturalist, and Evelyn carried her camera with her as the two of them explored the untamed countryside around their own property.  Evelyn took photos of landmarks:

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of local cowboys:

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of her fellow frontierspeople doing what they did:

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and, amazingly, she took many self-portraits too:

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It was the late 1970s before a Time-Life editor by the name of Donna Lucey discovered thousands of Cameron’s prints and negatives (along with her diaries) stashed in the basement of Cameron’s best friend’s home in Terry.  After intensive study, Lucey published the book “Photographing Montana 1894-1928:  The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron.”  Today the Montana Historical Society in Helena houses most of Evelyn Cameron’s photos, while the Evelyn Cameron museum in her hometown of Terry celebrates Cameron’s contribution to Western history.

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Cameron’s work is not only astounding for the stories she told firsthand and for the historical images she captured and for the photographic skill she demonstrated, but, at least for a gal like me, her work is inspirational.  I found myself recently thinking about this photo —

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— though I hadn’t seen the photo in some time, it’s the kind that sticks in a gal’s memory.  I decided I should try to replicate it in a modern way.  My husband humored me, and here’s the result:

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I would never try to compare myself with Lady Cameron’s legacy.  But I am blessed that in my modern life, 100 years later, I still have enough of what’s good — breathtaking badlands and understanding horses and some humans who think enough of me to play along with my ideas — that I could come close to copying her this time.

But don’t take my word on what’s excellent.  Check out Lucey’s “Photographing Montana” to see for yourself.  As the website evelyncameron.org puts it, “Some stories are simply too big, and too delicious, to be served in anything other than  a book — a respectably sized book… The story of Evelyn Cameron falls squarely into that category.”

© Tami Blake

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