Nancy Ford Cones is of particular interest because she
was commissioned by the Mariemont Company to photograph the new town of
Mariemont. She rented her
Loveland farmhouse and moved to Mariemont for one year in 1926, with her
husband James and daughter Margaret.
The family lived in the house opposite the church on the
northwest corner of Elm and Oak Streets.
daughter, Nancy Ford was born in Milan, Ohio in 1869.
At the age of 25 her father send her to a photographic studio in
Fostoria, Ohio, to learn retouching.
There she made her first pictures, showing sufficient talent that
her father bought her a half-interest in a photographic studio in
Mechanicsburg, Ohio. In 1900 she married James Cones, drawn together by their
interest in photography. Originally
a painter, James was a self-taught photographer and his expertise in
film processing enabled him to develop Nancy’s prints, using a new and
difficult process called gum-bichromate – a process that allowed the
developer to manipulate the print by adding colors or shading.
Shortly after their marriage the couple moved to Covington,
Kentucky where they had a photographic studio until 1905 when they moved
to rural Loveland.
When Nancy Ford
Cones began taking pictures, photography was still an emerging art form
and she was certainly a pioneer among woman photographers.
She was a conspicuous and unconventional figure, strolling down
the dirt roads along the Little Miami River with tripod and camera in
hand, photographing whatever caught her attention. While most applauded
her creativity, she faced the prejudice against her art on an almost
daily basis. Members of the Women’s Art Club to which she belonged
chided her for “ attempting art”.
Some were offended by the notion of a female photographers and
even more so by the content of some of her photographs which showed
sylph-like women in translucent costumes.
photograhs look more like paintiong than photographs.
They were part of what known was as the “picturalist”
movement, where the images were blurred and softened, similar to the
French Impressionists. Between 1910 and 1920 she produced her most
imaginative work. In a 1905 Kodak Competition of over 28,000 entries,
she finished second to Eduard Steichen and ahead of Alfred Stieglitz,
two photographers of great renown. Nancy particularly liked dressing up
her subjects as can be seen in her photograph “Calling The Ferryman”
which won first place in Photo-Era’s Fifth Annual Photographic Contest
Her work was
exhibited in many major US cities as well as in London, England. In 1916
she had an exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and in 1921 and again
in 1982 her photographs were exhibited at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
husband died in 1939, she largely abandoned photography. His darkroom
work had been an important part of Nancy's success. Nancy died on
January 3, 1962 at her family home in Loveland. The Mariemont
Preservation Foundation acquired the collection of 25 photographs, which
she produced for the Mariemont Company.