Mary Emery | Isabella F. Hopkins | Mrs. Carrie Conklin Sater | Dr. Ann Becker
Lucia Eckstein Hermanies | Mrs. Marie Hawk Jordan | Nancy Ford Cones

Mariemont’s Photographer


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.
          A doctor’s 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.
          Nancy’s 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 for 1907.
          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.
          When her 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. 


Created by Sam Amis and Michael Donovan
Mariemont City Schools | 2002
Last Updated: 12/27/05