Past Exhibitions

L. Vinton Richard: Early Photographs

L. Vinton Richard (1889-1975) spent most of his life in Orient. His reminiscences about growing up here are a major resource about life in Oysterponds in the early twentieth century. After attending local schools Richard studied botany at Syracuse University. This led to work at the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Co. in Philadelphia. He returned to Orient and, in 1930, started working at the post office as the rural letter carrier. Richard became a beloved figure in Orient and retired in 1960.

Richard’s interest in photography began at an early age. He was a protégé and lifelong friend of Orient artist and photographer William Steeple Davis (1884-1961). Most of the photographs in this exhibition date from around 1915 when Richard was in his twenties and was deeply influenced by his mentor, Davis. Similarities in their work of this early period are readily apparent, a fact mentioned in a review of one of Richard’s seascapes published in Popular Photography in 1914.

L. Vinton Richard, “From Colonel Stephenson’s House ‘Cedars’ Looking South”, ca. 1930s. This panoramic photograph was inscribed on the back by Richard who also added the words “Orient NY” and “Photo by Vinton Richard”. The Stephenson house has always had the most prominent location in Orient as it sits midway up the hill to the left just at the end of the causeway. It is said that Civil War officer William W. Stephenson had, at some point, stayed at the nearby Mount Pleasant House and was determined to return to Orient. In 1883 he built The Cedars and it remained in the Stephenson family until very recently. The notable feature of the house is the peaked, pyramidal roof creating a tower-like effect. That is a somewhat startling aspect of this photograph which certainly does justice to the magnificent view from The Cedars.


OHS has a large collection of glass plate negatives of the early work of both Davis and Richard. In 1979, in preparation for an exhibition of Vinton Richard’s work at OHS, Scott Harris made prints from many of those glass plate negatives. A number of those prints are in the current exhibition. An equal number are vintage prints by Richard, dating from the first two decades of the twentieth century. The two panoramic enlargements, although undated, appear to date from the 1930s.

During his years as the rural letter carrier in Orient, Richard renewed his interest in photography and became deeply involved in color photography. He combined this interest with his life-long passion for plants and flowers. On a regular basis he contributed photographs to various prestigious publications about gardening, plants, and wild flowers. After his retirement from the post office, he also began to lecture on botanical subjects such as “Through the Year in Nature’s Garden” using his own color transparencies. The photograph to your right shows him speaking at the Custer Institute in Southold. The large projector was made especially for his lectures by William Steeple Davis. OHS is grateful to L. Vinton Richard’s family for the splendid gift of his photographs, papers, and photographic equipment. n

“L. Vinton Richard: Early Photographs”, Opened May 25, 2019

Exhibit Items

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