America’s First Female Photojournalist And Her 50-Pound Camera
Before you get to masters of any profession, you have to have pioneers. And Jessie Tarbox Beals was America’s first female press photographer. During her life, she moved a lot (she was born in Canada), starting her career in Buffalo, then going to New York and California. All in all, she seemed to love travel and photography, back in the day when it meant a 50 pound camera and puffy ankle length dresses.
Jessie got her first camera in 1888 and received her first credit for work in September, 1900. One of her first and most audacious exploit was climbing on a bookshelf to photograph a murder trial that was closed to photographers. She was active in self promotion, which got her permission to Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, where she climbed on ladders and into balloons, photographed dignitaries and even stalked president Roosevelt long enough to gain his attention. Jessie also pioneered used of photo series to tell a story (instead of the usual practice of writing a piece and using images to illustrate it).
She rarely worked as a staff photographer and freelanced a lot, which also meant a lot of travel. She lived in New York and California, and was accepted in bohemian circles. Her pictures were published by the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times. She also appears to have done some cat photography, too, years before Internet.
Unfortunately, the high life and the Great Depression depleted her funds and, in 1942, Jessie Tarbox Beals died in New York at the age of seventy one.