A doctor's daughter, Nancy Ford was born in Milan, Ohio on September 11, 1869. The family later moved briefly to Indiana before returning to Ohio, where the young girl's interest in photography began. However, her initial efforts were hardly encouraging. One professional photographer was harsh in his criticism after developing some of her photographs, declaring, "It is artistic, but very incorrect. You should never have light from both sides, and a shadow in the center." Nevertheless, Dr. Ford sent his daughter to learn retouching at a studio in Fostoria, Ohio, and he later presented his 25-year-old daughter with half interest in a Mechanicsburg, Ohio photographic gallery. However, after struggling for a few years, Miss Ford returned home to help her sister care for her invalid husband. Despite the demands of caregiving on her time, she nevertheless kept her camera and tripod nearby. A fateful trip to a Lebanon, Ohio studio introduced Miss Ford to its proprietor, self-taught pictorial photographer James Cones. He refused payment for processing her film, and their courtship began, resulting in marriage in 1900.
Mr. Cones delighted in photographing pastoral scenes that were abundant in the Ohio countryside, and his wife was soon joining him in the fields, taking pictures of their friends and relatives at work, play, and prayer. She would later observe, "I am, in the first place, a homemaker... However, if the weather conditions are right, I am liable to drop my work at any moment and with my camera, take to my usual haunts for picture making." Mr. Cones gave up his own career as a photographer to develop his wife's prints, using the gum-bichromate process that enabled the developer to not only retouch but to further enhance images through the addition of color or shading. He signed Mrs. Cones name to her prints, and without her knowledge, entered some in magazine-sponsored contests, resulting in an impressive 54 awards from 1902 through 1916. Mrs. Cone became a member of the Cincinnati Photographic Club, and photographed several famous Cincinnati natives, including President William Howard Taft. She was contracted by Bausch + Lomb, Ansco Corporation, and Eastman Kodak to take artistic commercial photographs.
After her husband's untimely death in 1939, Mrs. Cones attempted to reproduce his effective darkroom techniques, with no success. She essentially retired from professional photography, except for the sporadic production of color slides. Nancy Ford Cones died on January 3, 1962 at the age of 92, and is buried next to her beloved husband in South Lebanon, Ohio. In celebration of her work, the Greater Loveland (Ohio) Historical Society Museum opened the Nancy Ford Cones Gallery, where new generations are being introduced to her photographs of early twentieth-century Ohioans. Describing herself as people's photographer, Mrs. Ford once remarked, "People young and old with their joys, sorrows and their whims have always interested me deeply… I seem mostly to want to make this type of picture." Fortunately, photographic historians have recognize the importance of "this type of picture."
1980 Cincinnati Magazine, Vol. XIV (Cincinnati, OH: Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce), pp. 42-47.
"Images to Sell Kodaks": Nancy Ford Cones: Photographs for the George Eastman Kodak Company 1902-1917 (URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/34035894_Images_to_sell_Kodaks_Nancy_Ford_Cones_photographs_for_the_George_Eastman_Kodak_Company_1902-1917).
2005 Nancy Ford Cones (URL: http://video.mariemontschools.org/preservationfoundation/mariemont%20women/ford_cones.htm).
2016 Nancy Ford Cones Gallery (URL: http://tedlyttle.com/demos/lovelandmuseum/conesgallery.asp).
1921 Photo-Era Magazine, Vol. XLVII (Wolfeboro, NH: A.H. Beardsley), pp. 132-134.
1914 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. LI (New York: Edward L. Wilson Company, Inc.), pp. 469-474.
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