Born in New Bern, North Carolina, Bayard Wootten is one of the American South's most significant early female photographers. She was descended from a prominent southern family; her maternal grandmother was writer and poet Mary Bayard Clarke and her father had a photography business, and galleries in Raleigh and Goldsboro. After taking classes at the New Bern Collegiate Institute, Bayard Wootten attended the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School, now UNC-Greensboro, where she received most of her instruction in art. Wootten pursued drawing and painting in college but took up photography in 1904.
From 1928 until her retirement in 1954, Wootten operated a successful studio in Chapel Hill, managed by her half-brother, George Moulton. This arrangement allowed her pictorial style of photography to blossom. As one of the earliest photographers to use the medium as fine art, Wootten was acclaimed for her fine details, thoughtful compositions and artistic expression. Bayard Wootten is best known for her photographs from the 1930's that demonstrate her mastery of a large range of subjects including scenes of the North Carolina Mountains, the Carolina islands and coastline, Charleston, botanical studies and images of the mountain people of the Appalachians.
Bayard Wootten was a pioneer and an adventurer. Her remarkable career included many firsts: she designed the first trademarked Pepsi-Cola logo, she was the first woman member of the North Carolina National Guard and the first female aerial photographer in America. Over the years she had studios in New Bern, Greensboro, and New York. Wootten was a member of the Pictorial Photographers of America, and the Women’s Federation of the Photographer’s Association of America. Her photographs have been compared to the work of both Dorothea Lange and Doris Ulmann.
A number of books written in the 1930's reproduce Bayard Wootten's silver gelatin prints as illustrations, including Backwoods America (1934), Cabins in the Laurel (1935), and Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina (1939). Her illustrations were also featured in Charleston: Azaleas and Old Bricks (1937), and New Castle, Delaware, 1651-1939(1939). An outstanding collection of negatives and prints by this innovative photographer is housed in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, UNC library, Chapel Hill.
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silver gelatin photographs by Bayard Wootten