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‘Here in History’: Women Behind the Lens, Female Photographers in Tioga County

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 8:00 PM EDT
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OWEGO (WBNG) -- Photography captures a moment in time, but during the early 19th and 20th century, photographers were predominantly men. In Tioga County however, there were some women who were involved in the profession as well.

Curator of Tioga Historical Society Rikki Springsteed decided to start researching her passion during the pandemic lock down.

“Well I have been interested in photography right along and I noticed that there were quite a number of photographers in Owego and I thought that being that we are a county museum we should have more input from other places” she said.

During her time, Springsteed said coming up with photos and artifacts for her new exhibit was difficult. “It was hard to find samples of the work we looked in the penny saver and asked people for samples of their photographs and we hadn’t come up too many”.

During the early 19th and 20th centuries, the job of a photographer was typically occupied by a man. However, during her research Springsteed was able to surface some names of women in the county, like Tabitha Jane Meade.

“Her husband was also a photographer, and even one of their children went into photography for a short period of time” said the curator. Another name that surfaces was Louise Blakeney.

“She had a watercolor put in Ceramics is a magazine of the time, and we found pictures of hers in the present sun bulletin and so she was an outside photographer as well as a studio photographer”.

These women were rarely recognized for their work. “A couple of the photographers are women who assisted their husbands and never got their name on anything except for perhaps the census record as a photographer” said Springsteed.

However, there was an exception to this, Springsteed says one business has listed ‘and Lady’ on their back-stamp (which has the photographers credentials). She says this was a progressive move for this time period.

Springsteed mentions that if it weren’t for the ‘social norms’ of the time period, Tioga County might have seen more female photographers. “Well women didn’t work if they were married that was a foregone conclusion, so consequently any woman who had a job who wanted to be a photographer was basically not married and most of them quit photography immediately upon marriage”.

For now, the public can tour the Tioga Historical Society’s exhibit on ‘Women Behind the Lens’ with artifacts and information about the women who helped to shape the industry.

For more information you can visit their website here.