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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Jessie Tarbox Beals

Dates:  1870, 23 December - 1942, 30 May
Born:  Canada, ONT, Hamilton
Died:  US, NY, New York City
Active:  US
 
  
American woman photographer.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Jessie Tarbox Beals
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

 
  
Beals is considered the first woman press photographer but also was involved in pictorial activities. She was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, on December 23, 1870, subsequently came to the United States, and earned a teaching certificate at the age of seventeen. She initially taught school in Massachusetts but around 1900 married and became an itinerant photographer with her husband.
 
In 1902, Beals was hired by the Buffalo Inquirer and Courier, beginning her career as a press photographer. She served as the official photographer for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and a few years later established a studio in New York. In addition to making studio portraits, Beals ventured out into the city to document slum children and the Bohemian lifestyle of Greenwich Village, images of which she often issued as photographic postcards. In the 1920s, she spent time working in Chicago and Hollywood, where her work included portraits, landscapes, and architectural studies that were reproduced in magazines such as Vogue, Harperís Bazaar, Town and Country, and Better Homes and Gardens.
 
Outside her professional photography, Beals undertook personal work that was pictorial in nature and welcomed by fellow creative photographers. She joined the Pictorial Photographers of America, organized in 1916 by Clarence H. White and others. This groupís annual, Pictorial Photography in America, reproduced images by her in 1920 and 1921. Five times during the 1920s the American Annual of Photography included her pictures, all of them figure studies. Among the pictorial salons she participated in were those in Toronto in 1921 and Buffalo in 1922. In 1928, Beals privately published a book of poems, titled Songs of a Wanderer. She died in New York on May 30, 1942. 
  
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
  
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Jessie Tarbox Beals
Jessie Tarbox Beals, Self-Portrait 
1904
 
  
Family history 
  
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alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Jessie Tarbox Beals.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Lahs-Gonzales, Olivia & Lippard, Lucy 1997 Defining Eye: Women Photographers of the 20th Century. Selections from the Helen Kornblum Collection (Saint Louis Art Museum, D.A.P.) [Jessie Tarbox Beals is included in this overview of women photographers.] 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
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