I am constantly grateful that Dr. Grace Raymond Hebard took up the hobby of photography. Her images of the prairie, the monuments she placed, her home, and friends help to give life to my research. Her black and white images of the prairie are often poetic, while her images of people feature prominent suffragists or Shoshone leaders. While I cannot necessarily say the same about the subjects of my photography, I can say that this is one hobby that I have in common with Dr. Hebard.
Technology has of course changed. I am not shooting my pictures with a box camera like Dr. Hebard, or even a film camera for the most part. But box cameras and digital cameras have a lot alike in that they opened up the hobby to more people. Looking over the group photos from the Camera Club that Dr. Hebard joined, it is incredible to see so many women and all of them using some variation of box camera. One woman’s box camera is so small and handheld, it almost looks modern. The images it produced must have been tiny.
Hefting my camera through college, study abroad, and now when I go out hiking or exploring Wyoming, I can only imagine Dr. Hebard carrying her camera with her across the state as she helped to map out and mark the western trails. I often find myself substituting my large, heavy camera with my much lighter cellphone. Dr. Hebard did not have this luxury. The smaller the camera, the smaller the images because the size of the negative determined the size of the photo. Photo enlargement was fairly new technology in the 1890s. Dr. Hebard’s larger box camera took two hands to hold and does not appear to have the convenience of a carrying strap.
Now, I carry my camera with me to the American Heritage Center. I have thousands of photos from Dr. Hebard’s collection, using my camera like she often did– to capture a moment in history and help further my research.