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Taft Museum of Art opens the first major exhibition of female pictorialist, Nancy Ford Cones
Nancy Ford Cones (American, 1869–1962), Mrs. Lawrence Smith and Baby, 1932, gelatin silver print.



CINCINNATI, OH.- Nancy Ford Cones created photographs that earned her an international reputation and recognition in prestigious journals such as Camera Craft, as well as popular outlets including National Geographic magazine and Kodak advertisements. Despite the praise her works received during her lifetime, Cones’s imaginative and exquisitely crafted photographs were largely forgotten after her death. The Taft Museum of Art’s special exhibition, Craft and Camera: The Art of Nancy Ford Cones (October 1, 2022–January 15, 2023) will be the first major presentation of her work.

The Taft presents Craft and Camera as part of the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial’s theme, World Record, which considers photography’s extensive record of life on earth while exploring humankind’s impact on the natural world.

Nancy Ford Cones (1869 - 1962) resided on a small riverside farm in Loveland, Ohio. Cones created photographs during a time when female artists struggled for recognition. This exhibition celebrates the gifted artist’s career and contributions to the field of photography. Cones made thousands of photographs that featured a variety of imaginative subjects brought to life with the help of neighbors, friends, and family between about 1900 and 1939.




“Craft and Camera gives us incredible insight into pictorial photography, but also the lens through which Cones re-imagined the Ohio River Valley landscape and people around her from a uniquely personal perspective”—Pepper Stetler, PhD, guest curator.

This exhibition includes many of Cones’s fairy tales and literary scenes, such as her celebrated adaptation of Mr. Micawber, which was exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in London in 1927. Cones recruited local grocer, Bill Stokes, to pose as the poverty-stricken but optimistic clerk from Charles Dickens’s 1850 novel David Copperfield. “‘Mr. Micawber’ by Nancy Ford Cones is a clever example of photographic illustration,” one critic wrote. “Such works show where America’s strength in camera work really lies.”

Cones also enrolled her daughter Margaret into her work, creating fantastical scenes featuring dryads, gnomes, and woodland adventures. Despite their artistic nature, several photographs in this exhibition, such as The Abode of the Gnomes, shows nude or scantily clad young women. These prints would have been considered morally suspect subjects for a rural photographer like Cones. She exhibited only one of her dryad photographs during her lifetime.

Cones also conceived evocative subjects that emulated 19th-century European paintings as well as country life. Her husband James, an expert in printing and developing photographs, helped produce Nancy’s work using a variety of techniques and papers. Craft and Camera highlights this collaboration, including her 1905 photograph Threading the Needle, which finished second to one by famed photographer Edward Steichen in a national Eastman Kodak competition drawing 20,000 entries.

The exhibition catalog, Craft and Camera: The Art of Nancy Ford Cones, is available for purchase in the Museum Shop. This fully illustrated publication features original research by exhibition curator Pepper Stetler, PhD. Stetler's findings bring to light one of the most important, yet overlooked, female Pictorialist photographers of the early 1900s. The catalog is made possible with support by The Kaplan Foundation dedicated in memory of Dr. Stanley and Mickey Kaplan.










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