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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Jane Bell Edwards

Dates:  1908, 10 October - 2002, 30 September
Born:  US, IL, Shelby County
Died:  US, GA, Fayetteville

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Jane Bell Edwards
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Edwards was active with her husband, Fred, in Chicago camera clubs during the 1940s. She was born Mildred Jane Bell on a farm in Shelby County in south central Illinois, on October 10, 1908. After attending two years of business school, she moved to Chicago in 1929. There, she married Frederick W. Edwards in 1937.
During 1940-41, she and Fred took photography classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with Don Loving. Years later she remembered that, over the next decade, "our marriage and social life revolved around amateur photography in the Chicago area." They joined the Evanston Camera Club, for which Jane eventually served as president, and the Chicago chapter of the Photographic Society of America. During World War II, they volunteered at the United Service Organization, helping it build a darkroom for servicemen, teaching photography to them, and taking portraits of them to send home. In 1946, Jane took Lászlo Moholy-Nagy’s six-week seminar "New Vision in Photography," at the Institute of Design, which featured Berenice Abbott, Paul Strand, Beaumont Newhall, Weegee, and others as speakers.
Throughout the 1940s, Jane exhibited in pictorial salons in Minneapolis, Memphis, Wichita, and elsewhere. Her work was accepted at the Chicago salon in 1944 (the year Ansel Adams served on the jury), 1945, and 1946. Many of her photographs were portraits of young children, shot informally in indoor settings and comprising a small business venture. Dubbed "Pug-Nosed Personalities," these images received some attention, being reproduced in 1946 inPopular Photography (June) and thePSA Journal (February and November). They comprised a one-person exhibition at Chicago’s Esquire Theater and a traveling show circulated by the Photographic Society of America (PSA). Their popularity also brought Edwards numerous invitations to lecture and judge. Many of the photographs by her in the museum’s collection are individually housed in folders circulated by the PSA that include technical information and comments from other photographers.
In 1951, the Edwards settled in Park Ridge, a northern Chicago suburb, where they would remain for most of the rest of their lives. Their interest in black-and-white work waned, but Jane took up making color slides on the foreign trips the couple took for Fred’s work. She then organized them into simple travelogues that she screened for friends and local organizations.
Jane Bell Edwards moved to the Atlanta area in June 2002. She died of a stroke in a nursing home in Fayetteville, Georgia, that year on September 30, at ninety-three. 
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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