The Grand Encampment Museum (GEM) hosted speaker Nicole Jean Hill, Professor of Art from Humboldt State University in California March 9. The presentation highlighted photography from the Lora Webb Nichols Collection. There were over forty people in attendance at the Grand Encampment Opera House.
Hill showed pictures from different periods of Nichol’s life and activities of women, children, miners and ranchers who lived in the Upper North Platte Valley in the early 20th century.
Hill noted thirty percent of the pictures in Nichols collection were from other photographers. She turned those negatives into postcards.
Nichols did pay twenty-five cents for the negatives, so she did get permission from the original photographers. Hill explained when Nichols was the owner and operator of the Rocky Mountain Studio, it was not a portrait studio, but a developing center for Kodak. She would collect film from drop off posts at ranches and the pharmacy in Saratoga, along with film coming into her store from Encampment. Nichols could not shoot portraits inside the studio due to Kodak’s contract but Nichols circumvented this policy by shooting many pictures outside.
“Young girls holding guns with dead animals was a favorite subject of Lora,” Hill said. “In 1933 she had a series called the Sugar Bowl; Many young men coming through with the conservation corps would pose at the Sugar Bowl soda fountain shop.”
Hill showed several pictures of the men from this time. “Sometimes she got their names, sometimes she didn’t.”
The audience chuckled at several of the photos from the collection.
“A lot of Lora’s pictures were of work and workers,” Hill said, “She understood the relevance of what she was taking.”
Hill said Nichols left Wyoming and her husband and children to move to Stockton, California in 1935. She would return to Wyoming over the next 20 years for visits, but California was her home until 1955 when she moved back to Wyoming.
Hill showed pictures of California and Wyoming from this time. In the mid 1950s, Nichols started to use color.
In 1962 Nichols passed away.
The audience gave Hill an ovation when she finished. Dick Perue told of correspondence he put aside for this engagement only to realize he had done too good of a job putting it in safe place because he could not find it. The crowd laughed.
Nancy Anderson’s 1995 book on Nichols “Lora Webb Nichols: Homesteader’s Daughter, Miner’s Bride” was available for purchase.
Wyoming PBS interviewed Hill regarding her research on Nichols in the fall of 2016. That interview is available to view online at http://video.wyomingpbs.org/video/2365888971/.