Past Exhibitions

William Steeple Davis

Oysterponds artist William Steeple Davis (1884-1961) spent virtually all of his life in Orient. The Oysterponds Historical Society has an enormous amount of his work in various media, including a great number of photographs, most depicting Oysterponds and spanning more than half a century. Not only do these demonstrate his skill as a photographer, they also document Oysterponds in the first half of the twentieth century. The current exhibition concentrates on his work in photography beginning when he was thirteen years old, and presents a sampling of the various subjects that interested him most. In the summer of 2015, a far more comprehensive exhibition devoted to both his family and his artistic output in various media beginning with his childhood sketches will be shown at OHS.

Exhibit Items

Photographs played an immensely important role in Davis’s career, yet the question of how he himself viewed his work in that medium is not easily understood. It is extraordinary that he wrote more than six hundred articles about photography, and published a book Practical Amateur Photography, yet Davis seems ambivalent about that aspect of his career. Kimberly Rhodes, author of the catalogue of a 1999 Davis exhibition, writes:

Davis’s photographic work was produced during a crucial era in the development of the medium and he was an active, important participant in this burgeoning field. It is ironic, then, that in a biographical resume Davis prepared toward the end of his life he characterized himself as a “Painter, Etcher, Engraver and Writer.” Why did Davis ignore the photographic portion of his identity? Perhaps he always felt that his photographic skills were mechanical rather than artistic, even though he asserted the role of photography as a valid art form in his many articles and encouraged others to become pictorial photographers. What is clear, however, is that whatever Davis believed about his photography, it is the richest and most intriguing portion of his artistic production.

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