Laura Webb Nichols (1883–1962) got her first camera on her 16th birthday, October 28, 1899, as a gift from Bert Oldman, a miner who would become her first husband the following year and the subject of many of her early photographs.
The earliest photographs are of her immediate family, self-portraits, and landscape images of the cultivation of the region surrounding the mining town of Encampment, Wyoming. In addition to the personal imagery, the young Nichols photographed miners, industrial infrastructure, and a small town’s adjustment to a sudden, but ultimately fleeting, population increase. The images chronicle the domestic, social, and economic aspects of the sparsely populated frontier of south-central Wyoming.
As early as 1906, Nichols was working for hire as a photographer for industrial documentation and family portraits, developing and printing from a darkroom she fashioned in the home she shared with her husband and their children. After the collapse of the copper industry, Nichols remained in Encampment
and established the Rocky Mountain Studio, a photography and photofinishing service, to help support her family. Her commercial studio was a focal point of the town throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
(Photos by Lora Webb Nichols / Lora Webb Nichols Photography Archive)