By Donna Poulton
In 1889, Evelyn Cameron left the gentrified home of her parents in England to follow her husband, Ewen, to the desolate prairieland of eastern Montana. When their initial venture of raising polo ponies in Montana failed, Evelyn turned to glass-plate photography to help support the family. Over the next 30 years she photographed life and work on the ranch and that of their neighbors. Her compelling views of domestic work, wildlife (especially coyotes, wolves and birds), and ranching came with the familiarity of having done much of the same work herself.
At age twenty-five Cameron wrote in her diary…”I wish I could lead a life worthy to look back upon.” Fearless, self-assured and determined Cameron left a legacy of images that equals any work being done at that time and a personal history unrivaled by most western fiction.
Equally compelling is the story of Donna M. Lucey who tenaciously researched the story of Evelyn Cameron. After following a rumor about a cache of pioneer photography, Lucey traveled to eastern Montana in 1979. There she found over 2000 glass-plate negatives and all of Evelyn’s journals and letters in the fervent care of Janet Williams who had inherited the ranch when Evelyn died in 1928. With Cameron’s life’s work intact, Lucey wrote Photographing Montana 1894-1928, The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron.