Lora Webb Nichols
November 19, 2022 – January 7, 2023
Danziger Gallery is pleased to continue our exclusive representation of the archive of Lora Webb Nichols with the first show of her work in Los Angeles. The recent discovery of Nichols’ turn of the century frontier work has been met with the acclaim of such other out of the mainstream photographers as Mike Disfarmer, Seydou Keïta, and Vivian Maier.
Nichols was born in 1883 and grew up in the small mining town of Encampment, Wyoming. At the age of 16 Lora received her first camera and from that moment and for the next few decades she produced work that is both stunning in its singular voice and revealing in the world it opens up for us.
At first Nichols photographed her family, friends, and the landscape around Encampment, but when the town experienced a copper mining boom Nichols expanded her scope to become a photographer for hire shooting portraits and industrial photographs. When the boom collapsed, Nichols took the risk of opening her own business in Encampment - The Rocky Mountain Studio - which opened in 1925. The studio ran for ten years, accumulating 24,000 negatives that illustrate the lives and environment of the people living in and around the town while creating a distinctive and surprising body of work. If one was to attempt an analogy – Nichols’ pictures fit somewhere between Lartigue and Lange - joyful and generous while objectively intimate. In particular what seems to distinguish Nichols’ work is the way she sees the world from a female perspective. As Vince Aletti noted in one of his “This is Not a Fashion Photograph” essays “Nichols didn’t just take a picture, she really saw people, especially women, and especially other adventurous, unconventional women and girls.”
The work might have been overlooked forever were it not for the efforts of photographer and professor Nicole Jean Hill who came across Nichols’ photographs in 2013 at the Grand Encampment Museum while on an artist in residence program nearby. Although there were only a few pictures on display, when Hill learned of the depth of the archive she spent the next 7 years exploring the work. Ultimately this led to the 2021 publication of the book “Encampment, Wyoming: Selections from the Lora Webb Nichols Archive. 1899 – 1948” edited by Hill and published by the Dutch publishers FW Books. Since the release of the book Nichols’ work has been effusively praised by Alec Soth, Sally Mann, and Vince Aletti among many others, and written about in publications worldwide from Italian VOGUE to The New Yorker.
With no vintage prints available the gallery has worked with the archive and master printer John Weldon of Weldon Labs in Los Angeles to produce limited edition gelatin silver prints.