Heap-O-Livin features a selection of images by Wyoming photographer and diarist Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962). Nichols created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives and 65 years of diaries throughout her lifetime in the town of Encampment.
In addition to the industrial and economic aspects of this sparsely populated ranching and copper mining town, Lora’s images and diaries documented the lives of the girls and women within private households.
Despite the inherent isolation created by geography, the long brutal winters, and the patriarchal ideology that undervalued the role of women in Encampment in the late 19th and early 20th century, a robust female-led community emerged that provided a network of spiritual and emotional support. This was cultivated through the habitual visitations of immediate and extended family and friends into each other’s homes during their transition from children to wives and mothers. In Nichols’ sphere, these visitations often involved the act of picture-making.
Lora photographed their duties and mothers and homemakers but also made photographs that reveal the pleasure they experienced in simply being in each other’s company.
Lora Webb Nichols (1883-1962) created and collected approximately 24,000 negatives over the course of her lifetime in the mining town of Encampment, Wyoming. The images chronicle the domestic, social, and economic aspects of the sparsely populated frontier of south-central Wyoming.
Nichols received her first camera in 1899 at the age of 16, coinciding with the rise of the region’s copper mining boom. The earliest photographs are of her immediate family, self-portraits, and landscape images of the cultivation of the region surrounding the town of Encampment. In addition to the personal imagery, the young Nichols photographed miners, industrial infrastructure, and a small town’s adjustment to a sudden, but ultimately fleeting, population increase.
As early as 1906, Nichols was working for hire as a photographer for industrial documentation and family portraits, developing and printing from a darkroom she fashioned in the home she shared with her husband and their children. After the collapse of the copper industry, Nichols remained in Encampment and established the Rocky Mountain Studio, a photography and photo finishing service, to help support her family. Her commercial studio was a focal point of the town throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
Lora Webb Nichols
4 November 2023 – 17 February 2024
Alice Austen House
2 Hylan Blvd
Staten Island, NY 10305-2002