Women’s history program celebrates life and work of legendary photographer Bayard Wootten

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Roanoke Island Festival Park rounds out Women’s History Month with the special presentation “Bayard Wootten: Then and Now,” March 28 at 6 p.m. This free program celebrates the life and work of Bayard Wootten, a trailblazing female photographer and artist from North Carolina.

Guest speakers include Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources; Jerry Cotten, author of “Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten” and photo archivist Stephen J. Fletcher with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Wilson Library.

Cotten and Fletcher are both historians and experts in photography and have studied Wootten’s work for many years. Cotten will discuss the life and artistic influences in Wootten’s photography and highlights from his book, “Light and Air.” Fletcher will follow with a talk on new information that has come to light about Wootten’s life and photography since Cotton’s book was published.

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“Wootten’s life and work paved the way for female photographers today and her work with the women’s suffrage movement helped to advance women’s rights in North Carolina,” said Secretary Hamilton. “We look forward to honoring her legacy and learning more about her fascinating life, especially during Women’s History Month.”

After the presentation, guests can purchase a signed copy of “Light and Air” and view Wootten’s photography exhibit on display in the ticket sales gallery. This exhibit features Wootten’s most poignant photographs that captured the lives of those living in rural communities in the south during and after the Great Depression.

As a single, divorced mother and artist, Wootten picked up photography in 1904 as an additional source of income to support her family. Wootten’s unique pictorial style stood out amongst her peers and led to a successful career, despite the economic challenges and discrimination she faced in the workplace. Wootten’s talent and determination opened many opportunities for her throughout her life. She went on to serve as the chief of publicity at Camp Glen, making her the first woman in the North Carolina National Guard and the first woman to take an aerial photo. She is also credited as the designer of the Pepsi logo that she sketched for her neighbor and founder of the company, Caleb Bradham. Wootten is not only remembered for her talents, but as a champion of equal rights for women.

“Light and Air: The Photography of Bayard Wootten” is open to the public to view at Festival Park through May 31 during normal operating hours. The exhibit is on loan from the North Carolina Collection from UNC-Chapel Hill Library. For more information about the presentation, visit roanokeisland.com or call 252-475-1500.