Jessie Tarbox Beals Life and photography

Jessie Tarbox Beals, originally from Canada, moved to Massachusetts in her late teens and pursued a career as a school teacher. She taught for about ten years, then quit to pursue her passion for photography.

 

Beacon St, Boston, Mass, USA, c.1902-10 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Beacon St, Boston, Mass, USA, c.1902-10 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

In 1897 she married fellow photographer, Alfred Beals, with whom she travelled the Northeast, United States photographing life up and down the coast.

 

Beals at work, c.1905-40 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Beals at work, c.1905-40 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

Jessie Tarbox Beals is regarded as the first female news photographer in America.

Beals was hired in 1902 by The Buffalo Inquirer and The Courier to work as their staff photographer. Beals was unique in her time because through the 1920s female photographers would not really stray too far from their homes, or worked out of portrait studios, but Beals ventured out into the world.

 

 

Charlotte Powell, Village Painter, c.1905-16 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Charlotte Powell, Village Painter, c.1905-16 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

She photographed the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, otherwise known as the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the first woman to receive press credentials, this opportunity saw her photographs published across the country.

 

Uncle Sylvanus Cone, model, c.1905-09 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Uncle Sylvanus Cone, model, c.1905-09 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

Mr Messenger, bee man, c.1905-09 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Mr Messenger, bee man, c.1905-09 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

The following year she moved to New York City with her husband, who had been serving as her darkroom technician.

 

Mabel Herbert Urner, author of Helen & Warren ready for trip to Europe, c.1905-40 (gelatin silver photo) Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman ImagesMabel Herbert Urner, author of Helen & Warren ready for trip to Europe, c.1905-40 (gelatin silver photo) Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

In New York, they opened their own photography studio where she made portraits of prominent artists, writers, poets, and actors of the time.

 

Jessie Tarbox Beals Portraiture of Distinction Thirteen East Fifty Seven New York Plaza 1036 Business card, c.1926-36 (ink on paper), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) / Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA / © New York Historical Society / Bridgeman Images

Jessie Tarbox Beals Portraiture of Distinction Thirteen East Fifty Seven New York Plaza 1036 Business card, c.1926-36 (ink on paper), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) / Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA / © New York Historical Society / Bridgeman Images
 

 

Around this time, Beals had begun taking photographs of New York City at night after teaching herself flash photography. 

 

Patchin Place at night, Greenwich Village, New York, USA, c.1905-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Patchin Place at night, Greenwich Village, New York, USA, c.1905-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

By 1917 she divorced Alfred Beals and opened her own gallery and tea room in Greenwich Village.

 

May Wilson Preston, artist & illustrator, c.1905-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images -1May Wilson Preston, artist & illustrator, c.1905-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

Beals continued photographing the streets of New York, mainly of Greenwich Village and the bohemian lifestyle that encompassed it.

 

Madam Girard, 1910 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images 3697731Madam Girard, 1910 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

She became a frequent contributor to the New York Times providing photographs of the city’s architecture and greenery. 

 

Terrace of Mrs Alice Woodward Rhinehardt, 400 E 52 St, c.1936-37 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Terrace of Mrs Alice Woodward Rhinehardt, 400 E 52 St, c.1936-37 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

In 1928 she moved to California where Hollywood executives fawned over having a New York photographer photograph their estates and gardens.

As the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression took hold, Beals returned to New York City, where she resided until her death in 1942. In New York City, she continued photographing estates and gardens but was never able to recapture the success she had. 

 

Dr Mary Walker, one of the first women doctors who has the right to wear mans clothes, 1915 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Dr Mary Walker, one of the first women doctors who has the right to wear mans clothes, 1915 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

Over the years, Beals had taken photographs of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and William Howard Taft as well as Mark Twain.

 

Mark Twain, 1906 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Mark Twain, 1906 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

 

When she died, photographer Alexander Alland bought up many of her prints and negatives in order to maintain her legacy.

 

Beals self-portrait, c.1918-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942)  Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA  © New York Historical Society  Bridgeman Images Beals self-portrait, c.1918-20 (gelatin silver photo), Beals, Jessie Tarbox (1871-1942) Collection of the New-York Historical Society, USA © New York Historical Society Bridgeman Images

In 1978, he published a biography about her, Jessie Tarbox Beals: First Woman News Photographer.

 

 

Read more:

Female Photographers - Brief History of Women with a Camera

 

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