Ms. Edna Bennett of East Marion, L. I., by Loren Rowley
August 9, 2011
“Exhibition on Local Photographer to Open at Southold Historical Society”
SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce that it will open its fall exhibition, “THE VERSATILE REVEREND – The Photographs of Loren A. Rowley,” on Saturday, September 10, 2011. The exhibition, which will feature several dozen examples of Rowley’s photographs, is the first to document the variety of images taken by this little known photographer.
“As a museum we find it very important to reveal new discoveries concerning local history,” stated Geoffrey K. Fleming, the Director of the Society. “There are so few known photographers that to discover a new one is very exciting for our staff,” he continued. The exhibition will be held in the Mayne Memorial Gallery, located in the Ann Currie-Bell house at the Society’s Museum Complex on the corner of Main Road and Maple Lane in Southold.
One of the special aspects of Rowley’s career is that his primary occupation was not photography. He was, in fact, the minister at the East Marion Baptist Church. Born in in Broadalbin, New York, in 1858, Rowley trained at the Hamilton Theological Seminary to become a minister. After completing his studies he departed for his first pastorate appointment in Earlville, New York – located southwest of Utica – in the fall of 1891. In 1896, Rowley received an appointment as minister to the members of the East Marion Baptist Church and began his time on the North Fork of Long Island, where he would serve through 1904.
Though his activities as a photographer almost certainly began as a hobby, Rowley became a professional photographer, who not only lectured upon the technology, but also made and sold his prints for financial gain – charging twenty-five cents for mounted photographs. A jack-of-all-trades, he also did job printing, repaired furniture, clocks, sewing machines, helped to lay carpet, and even did some gilding to supplement his income as a minister. As one historian remarked: “Being the pastor of a rural church was a career but seldom a livelihood in days gone bye.”
In his early years in East Marion Rowley gave a lecture at a Good Templar’s meeting, which was held at his church. As part of his presentation he included a “stereopticon exhibition.” The stereopticon is a slide projector or “magic lantern,” which has two lenses, usually one above the other. Prior to moving pictures, these devices were a highly popular form of entertainment around the world. Realistic images of nearly anything could be projected using glass slides and could be organized in such a way to tell a tale or story. Rowley’s interest in such a device is not unusual, and it shows that his interest in photography was not limited to just printed images. He held a second presentation in Orient in October of 1898 on which the local paper remarked: “The church social on Thursday evening promises to be something out of the ordinary. An especially interesting feature is a lecture by Rev. Mr. Rowley, of East Marion, in connection with his magic lantern.”
Rowley also manufactured and sold “stereoviews” of local scenes to the public. Made most commonly from mounted albumen photographic prints, they could imitate a multi-dimensional image when examined through a special viewer. Beginning in the mid-19th century stereoviews became hugely popular and many photographers made them, including here on the North Fork. Though Rowley made regular prints, he appears to have specialized in stereoviews as nearly all the images ever found by him have been of that format. Of those, almost all are views of people and places relating to eastern Long Island, including views in East Marion, on Gardiner’s Island, and at Montauk. The thirty or so images that have so far been discovered were acquired through purchase by the Society in 2010, with several more being donated by a local resident a short time later.
“Many of his images capture the everyday, something that is often taken for granted,” stated Fleming. “We hope that the public will take time to view the images that Rowley created during his short tenure here,” he continued. In addition to the exhibition, the Society has published a sixty-five page book documenting Rowley’s career and his photographs that will be available for purchase at the Society’s museum shop, located on Main Road in the Prince Building.
The Rowley Exhibition will be open from 1-4 pm on Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays beginning September 10th and will remain open to the public through Columbus Day Weekend (October 9th). For further information, please call (631) 765-5500 or visit the Society’s website at www.southoldhistoricalsociety.org.