PULLMAN, Wash.–At the turn of the century, photography–then promoted by the Eastman Kodak Company as “Kodakery”–was sweeping the country as a popular hobby and gaining recognition as an art form. “Witch of Kodakery: The Photography of Myra Albert Wiggins, 1869-1956,” by Carole Glauber, is the richly illustrated biography of a pioneering Northwest photographic artist. Wiggins is one of four Northwest women photographers featured in a Portland Art Museum exhibit, “Sisters of the Light: Oregon Photo-Secessionists,” set for Aug. 12-Oct. 19.
Born in Salem, Ore., in 1869, Myra Albert Wiggins began her career in 1891 at the Art Students League in New York City, where she studied with the painter William Merritt Chase and other notable artists. After returning to the Pacific Northwest, she earned a national reputation for her eloquent pictorial photographs, which appeared in major newspapers and photography magazines, and in exhibits across the United States and Europe. Her admission in 1903 to the Photo-Secession, a group founded by Alfred Stieglitz to promote photography as an art form, reinforced her stature and linked her with the photographic avant-garde. “In many ways,” writes Glauber in the book’s preface, “she embodied the emergence of the ‘New Woman,’ independent, energetic, and ambitious, as was the ‘Kodak Girl,’ created and promoted by the Eastman Kodak Company.”
In 1907, Wiggins moved with her husband and daughter to Toppenish, where she taught art and voice classes, wrote poetry, and continued her work as a photographer. In 1932, the family moved to Seattle, where Myra Wiggins opened a studio and became active in arts organizations, including the still-active Women Painters of Washington of which she was a founding member. Later in life, she embarked upon a second career as a painter, winning many commissions and awards for her still lifes, portraits, interiors and landscapes.
Author Carole Glauber of Portland, Ore., is a photographer whose work has appeared in museums and galleries throughout the Northwest and elsewhere. Her interest in Myra Wiggins led her to Wiggins’ grandson, Robert Benz and his wife, Shirley, who were then living in Yakima, and who allowed Glauber to sift through the artist’s voluminous manuscripts, letters, photographs and other memorabilia that had been passed down to them from Myra’s daughter, Mildred Wiggins Benz. Much of this material was then donated to the Portland Art Museum.
“Witch of Kodakery” features more than 100 photographs and illustrations, and a foreword by Terry Toedtemeier, curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum.
Susan Seyl, photographs librarian at the Oregon History Center, called “Witch of Kodakery” a significant contribution … It not only thoroughly chronicles the life of an important regional photographer, it also provides many insights into the development of fine art photography on the national and international level.”
“Witch of Kodakery” is a 160-page, large format book, available for $28 in paperback, $42 in hardcover, at bookstores or direct from the WSU Press, 800/354-7360.
Editors, please note: Author Carole Glauber can be reached in Portland at 503/788-9464. For more information about this book, or to obtain a review copy, please contact WSU Press at
509/335-3518. Please note that WSU Press is a small, regional university press. Our books are available in bookstores throughout the Northwest, but may be more difficult to find outside of the region. Whenever possible, we would appreciate the inclusion of our toll-free number in articles or reviews.