Intimate file of a Wyoming woman in the early 20th century

Nichols produced some extremely striking images from the moment she picked up her camera. One of his first subjects was his sister Lizzie (who used a crutch after a serious fall as a child) outside their log house at a monumental monumental angle. A young woman, likely Lora and Lizzie’s cousin, Carrie, stands behind Lizzie, in the shaded doorway, creating a depth of field that also catches the viewer’s eye horizontally. That same year, experimenting with double exposure and self-portrait techniques, Lora captured herself dressed as a boy and playing the banjo, while also appearing as a spectral woman in a full skirt and apron leaping onto her own knees, interrupting the look of oneself. -gravity. In another remarkable old image, under a blazing, evenly lit sky, a little girl walks away from the camera to face her little dog, Button, and raises a pointing finger at him: “Stay! ”(A bit like the order that a photographer gives to his subject). The dog obeys, but with a slight and charming breach: he turns his muzzle a little and looks away, out of reach of Nichols’ lens.

Lizzie Nichols at Willow Glen, 1899.

Images of Nichols from the first half of his life often portray what Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, a 19th century historian, called “the feminine world of love and ritual,” a domestic sphere of deep connection between women. . Nichols’ friend, Nora Fleming, breastfeeds her baby in the sun, her chest protruding from a flap built into the bodice of her high neck dress; to take the picture, Nichols positions himself next to the couple while Nora mischievously throws her eyes at the camera. In another incredibly intimate image, Mary Anderson leans slightly at the waist to comb her hair almost to the ankles, presumably preparing to pull it up and out of public view, as per the custom of the day. Here and elsewhere, Nichols demonstrates an intuitive sense of gesture and balance. In a 1913 image, Lizzie stands with her back to the camera, the earth stretching out in front of her. She gracefully pulls out her right hip for her pet cat, who has clearly just climbed up her body to reach for a treat she holds delicately in her fingers at the end of a dancing upright port de bras. Her body weight rests on the crutch tucked into her left armpit. What could be a precarious moment almost seems implausibly solid inside the framework Nichols designed.