Dr. Ownby is an artist and scholar, researching and writing on photography’s role in American 19th century history and culture, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Ownby is associate professor of photo media and photo history at Idaho State University. He earned his PhD in visual media studies from Colorado State University.
Mrs. Amelia Strang, Photographist of the Idaho Territory: Bringing Distant Voices to the Present
This particular project was to research and write more in-depth about Idaho’s first female photographer: Mrs. Amelia Strang. She opened her studio in the rugged frontier town and capital of Lewiston, Idaho Territory. Amelia first advertised her daguerreian room and photographic business in the Golden Age newspaper during the autumn of 1864. She was one of a handful of women to obtain a federal tax license during this era, and she purchased hers in 1865. She would go on to establish two more studios in California, one in Santa Cruz and the other in San Francisco. In addition to running her photographic business, she also became an inventor and obtained a patent for a progressive and ergonomic boot and shoe design. The work conducted on this project fits well into my long-term research goals of reconstructing the biographies of little known photographic pioneers in 19th century America.
The Palmquist award was used for vital data base subscriptions and archive/ usage fees. The project resulted in three public lectures; two in 2015 and one in 2016. The first two lectures were sponsored by the Idaho State Historical Society and were part of a month-long, state-wide series titled: “Adventurous Women in Idaho.” One lecture was given at the Boise Public Library and the second in Pocatello at the Idaho State University library. The title for the presentations was changed to “Pioneer Lady Photographers in the Idaho Territory.”
The third presentation was an invitation to be the keynote speaker at an exhibit on the 19th century photographic history of Lewiston, Idaho, which is where my research subject originated. That exhibition, “Stories We See: Early Photography of the Valley,” ran from September 9 to December 3, 2016 and was sponsored by the Idaho Council for the Humanities. The original presentation material was modified to address more specifically the local topic and was titled: “Mrs. Strang’s Daguerrean Room: Lewiston’s First Lady Photographer.”
Lastly, this project became the impetus for a book manuscript on 19th century women photographers operating studios in the American West. The original manuscript written for the lectures was expanded and modified to become the introduction and one of the chapters in the book. Although the manuscript is still a work-in-progress, several university presses have expressed interest in publishing this book.