‘Last Photographers’ illustrates history of West Virginia

The first in a series of books collecting the photography of West Virginia, “Last Photographers – Finley Taylor, Collection 1 – Logging and Rails,” is filled with photographs of the lifestyles of families and woodhicks who worked for the Cherry River Boom and Lumber Company. Above, the photo titled “Tub of Water,” is a family portrait of the Giles family. It is accompanied by a story which explains its title. Photo courtesy of Mark Romano
The first in a series of books collecting the photography of West Virginia, “Last Photographers – Finley Taylor, Collection 1 – Logging and Rails,” is filled with photographs of the lifestyles of families and woodhicks who worked for the Cherry River Boom and Lumber Company. Above, the photo titled “Tub of Water,” is a family portrait of the Giles family. It is accompanied by a story which explains its title. Photo courtesy of Mark Romano

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what does a book filled with pictures have to say?

Combining their love of photography and West Virginia, photographers Mark Romano and Anne Johnson have published the first in a series of books collecting the work of West Virginian photographers which illustrate lifestyles of the past.

Each book will feature one photographer and one aspect of West Virginia.

“The first edition features Finley Taylor, a progressive but obscure photographer from Richwood, West Virginia, who photographed from 1911-1949,” Romano said in a press release. “Photos were selected from thousands of five-by-seven neg- atives and prints depicting logging and railroading during the historical era of the 1920s through the 1930s.”

Among the photographs, Romano and Johnson included excerpts from the diary of Harry Howard, a woodhick who worked on the railroad and in the woods, cutting timber.

Most of the photographs were taken in Webster County of the Cherry River Boom and Lumber Company. Taylor began his photography career as assistant to G.W. Yorty. He helped Yorty lug a 5×7, large format, camera and tripod through fields and mountains as they documented the lives of West Virginians.

Taylor was employed at a lumber mill in Richwood, but soon left the position to be a full-time photographer.

“Eventually opening a studio in his home, Finley spent time photographing local families and individuals,” Romano and Johnson wrote in the book’s preface. “He was creative when capturing the moment, devising ruses that relaxed his subjects and brought out their true characters. At times he even dressed in humorous attire and posed with customers, as seen in his ‘womanless wedding’ image.”

In the collection titled Logging and Rails, a few pictures were taken in Pocahontas County of the Farley family in Tea Creek.
Most photos have a simple title, while others are accompanied by stories explaining their content. One photo in particular is of a family of nine standing in front of their “mobile” home.

The accompanying story explains that logging community homes were not permanent, and, in fact, the homes were moved from logging town to logging town by train. When it was time to move, the homes were hoisted onto train cars and moved to the next job site.

According to the story, Audrey Giles Tyler “recalled the steadiness and ease of transporting their camp home.” Tyler’s parents would fill a wash tub with water, place it on the kitchen table before the house was moved. When it was placed at its new location, the family would marvel that not a single drop of water spilled from the tub.

This story and more stories and photographs are available in Last Photographers – Finley Taylor, Collection 1 – Logging and Rails.

It is available for purchase online at www.lastphotographers.com

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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