Friday, April 10, 2020

Bayard Wooten: Caswell County, North Carolina

Bayard Morgan Wooten: Caswell County Photographs

Mary Bayard Morgan Wootten was independent. As Bayard Wootten, she become a pioneering female photographer, crisscrossing North Carolina and parts of the South for nearly 50 years. Wootten's photos of old houses and gardens won praise. Her lifestyle, though, often generated chuckles and occasional criticism from those who thought her unladylike in dress and manner.Wootten stayed active until 1954, working in a Chapel Hill studio above Julian's and the Varsity men shops on Franklin Street. She then moved back to New Bern to the big house on Front Street where she grew up. She died in 1959 at age 82. On assignment, she took command. "I would shoo the family out and take the picture," she said of a visit to Rose Hill, a 19th-century estate in Caswell County that she photographed inside and out. Frances Benjamin Johnston and Wootten photographed many of the same fine old houses. Both did Rose Hill.

"She was a character, an absolute character," says Greensboro photographer S. Lane Atkinson, who worked for Wootten in the 1940s. "She was a chain smoker and she dressed in pants, wore her hair combed straight back. She wore a hearing aid. If she didn't want to hear something or just didn't want to be bothered, she cut it off."

"She would wear the same suit for weeks at a time," says Celia Eudy of Kinston, Wootten's niece. "She had a good sense of humor. She enjoyed conversation with men folks more than tea-type ladies."

Wootten motored about the state and the South in a yellow Buick, chaffeur-driven and loaded down with heavy camera gear. Atkinson says Wootten always insisted that cars be yellow. "That way she could walk out of a building and find her car without having to look for it," Atkinson says.

Wootten loved photographing old homes and beautiful gardens, but she was open to all photographic possibilities. She published postcards. She did portraits. She had the contract for yearbooks at UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. State, The Citadel and other schools. She also had an agreement with the Playmakers Theatre at UNC-Chapel Hill to photograph productions there. She did one in which lanky student Thomas Wolfe acted. She even photographed some football and basketball games in Chapel Hill, where she lived from 1928 to 1954.

She was equally at ease with erudite academicians and salty-talking soldiers. During World War II, she had the photographic concession at old Camp Butner, a World War II army base near Durham, and operated a atudio outside the gate at Fort Bragg.

She took up photography in 1904. Before that she painted and is credited with designing the trademark for Pepsi-Cola. The soft drink was invented in New Bern. She also taught school in Georgia, where she met and married a lawyer. They had two children before divorcing. Wootten returned to North Carolina and soon began a photography career that kept her traveling all over the Eastern seaboard, many times to Charleston, S.C., a city she loved. She also traveled nationally, giving lectures illustrated by slides of her work.

She would take risks for a photo. Jerry Cotten, photo archivist at UNC-Chapel Hill's North Carolina Collection, believes Wootten was the first woman ever to shoot from an airplane. She took her camera aloft in a Wright bi-plane in 1914 and took aerials of New Bern.

With her half-brother, George Moulton, she operated Wootten-Moulton Studios. At one time or another, the studio had branches in New Bern, Chapel Hill, Camp Butner, Fort Bragg and, in 1925 and 1926, Greensboro, at 215 1/2 S. Elm Street. Here, she was close friends with Maude Latham, who like Wootten grew up in New Bern.

References

1. Bayard Wooten: Shooting for Posterity by Jim Schlosser, Staff Writer, February 11, 1995, Greensboro News & Record.

2. https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/P0011/

3. https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2014/04/06/bayard-wootten-esteemed-photographer-of-chapel-hill-and-new-bern

4. https://ncccha.blogspot.com/2018/03/clay-lewis-irvine-house-milton-nc.html
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1. Bethesda Presbyterian Church (Locust Hill)
2. Milton Presbyterian Church (Milton)
3. James Poteat House (Forest Home)
4. Bedford Brown House (Rose Hill)(Locust Hill)
5. Melrose (Williamson House)

6. Romulus Saunders House (Longwood)
7. Calvin Graves House (Locust Hill)
8. Red House Presbyterian Church (Semora)
9. Clay-Lewis-Irvine-Upchurch House (Milton)
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1. Flat Box 09: Bethesda Presbyterian Church
Black and White Photographic Print P0011/1_1_0091
Miscellaneous photographs attributed to Wootten-Moulton Studios: Caswell County: Locust Hill: Churches: Bethesda Presbyterian, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Photographic Print: 1 image
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2. Flat Box 09: Milton Presbyterian Church
Black and White Photographic Print P0011/1_1_0092
Miscellaneous photographs attributed to Wootten-Moulton Studios: Caswell County: Milton: Churches: Presbyterian, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Photographic Print: 1 image
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3. Flat Box 09: James Poteat House (Forest Home)
Black and White Photographic Print P0011/1_1_0093
Miscellaneous photographs attributed to Wootten-Moulton Studios: Caswell County: Yanceyville: Houses: Poteat (James), circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Photographic Print: 1 image
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4. Black and White Film Box 02: Bedford Brown House (Rose Hill)
Black and White Sheet Film P0011/C338_023
Old Homes of North Carolina: Bedford Brown House, Caswell County, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Sheet Film (8x10): 1 image
Wootten negative number: 2444.

On assignment, she took command. "I would shoo the family out and take the picture," she said of a visit to Rose Hill, a 19th-century estate in Caswell County that she photographed inside and out. Frances Benjamin Johnston and Wootten photographed many of the same fine old houses. Both did Rose Hill.
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5. Black and White Film Box 02: Melrose
Black and White Sheet Film P0011/C338_024
Old Homes of North Carolina: Melrose, Caswell County, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Sheet Film (8x10): 4 images
Wootten negative numbers: 2446, 2446-1, 2446-2, 2446-3.
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6. Black and White Film Box 02: Romulus Saunders House (Longwood)
Black and White Sheet Film P0011/C338_025
Old Homes of North Carolina: Romulus Saunders House, Caswell County, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Sheet Film (8x10): 1 image
Wootten negative number: 2441.
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7. Black and White Film Box 02: Calvin Graves House
Black and White Sheet Film P0011/C338_026
Old Homes of North Carolina: Jethro Brown House (also Calvin Graves), Caswell County, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Sheet Film (8x10): 1 image
Wootten negative number: 2442.
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8. Black and White Film Box 03: Red House Presbyterian Church
Black and White Sheet Film P0011/C340_014
Churches of North Carolina: Red House Church built in 1781, Caswell County, circa 1904-1954
Black-and-White Sheet Film (8x10): 1 image
Negative has deteriorated
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9. Henderson, Archibald. Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina. Photographs by Bayard Wootten. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939.

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