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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Ella E. McBride

Dates:  1862, 17 November - 1965, 14 September
Born:  US, IA, Albia

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Ella E. McBride
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

On November 17, 1862, Ella E. McBride was born in Albia, Iowa. Three years later, her family moved to a small town in Oregon, and McBride eventually graduated from high school in Portland. For about the next twenty-five years she taught in Portland, serving for thirteen years as principal of the Ainsworth School.
Tall, athletic, and adventuresome, McBride became an avid mountain climber, first ascending Mount Rainer in 1897. On this ascent, she met Edward S. Curtis, soon to become the great photographer of the North American Indian, and in 1907 she moved to Seattle to help manage his portrait studio. After about a decade there, where one of her coworkers was Imogen Cunningham, McBride established her own portrait studio in 1916. The studio chronicled Seattle’s cultural scene, including activities at the Cornish School, which brought in advanced dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Ruth St. Denis to perform and teach. In 1918, Wayne C. Albee, later a pictorialist in his own right, joined the business.
McBride didn’t start experimenting with artistic photography until around 1920, when she was nearly sixty years old. Her creative work was included in Seattle’s Frederick and Nelson (department store) salons, 1920-23 and 1925, and in the 1921 North American Times Exhibition of Pictorial Photographs. Over the rest of the decade, her creative photographs were seen at international salons in Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, Toronto, Turin, and Vancouver. American camera clubs also hung her work, in cities such as Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Cleveland, Akron, Rochester, Syracuse, and New York. In the 1926-27 season alone, seventy-one of her prints were accepted at twenty-one salons. She was honored with solo shows at San Francisco’s California Camera Club in 1927 and the Art Institute of Seattle (now Seattle Art Museum) in 1931.
McBride was an early member of the Seattle Camera Club, which was comprised largely of Japanese-American men. Most of her pictorial work comprised figure studies and still lifes, especially with flowers. In 1927 and 1928, the American Annual of Photography featured full-page illustrations of her work.
McBride continued to make her living as a professional photographer, showing work in 1930 at the annual convention of the Photographers’ Association of America in Milwaukee. Two years later, she partnered with Richard H. Anderson, who specialized in child portraiture, creating McBride and Anderson. Not until 1963, at age ninety-one, did she retire from photography, largely because of failing eyesight. Ella E. McBride died on September 14, 1965, nearly 103 years old. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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