Roanoke Island Festival Park invites the public to view their latest exhibit, “‘Light and Air’: the Photography of Bayard Wootten.” Now through Thursday, May 31, 2018 – 5:00 p.m.
A New Bern native, Wootten was a pioneering female photographer and artist working in the early to the mid-1900s, whose photographs are still displayed and renowned today. This free exhibit will open Saturday, March 3rd from 9 am – 5 pm and will run through May 31st.
The Light and Air exhibit will feature Wootten’s work capturing the lifestyle of rural communities in North Carolina. Friends of Wootten say that her personable demeanor gave her access to these private corners of the south. She is most recognized for her artistic point of view and for overcoming and thriving despite the challenges she faced in her professional and personal life.
As a single, divorced mother and artist, Wootten picked up photography in 1904 as an additional source of income to support her family. She found success selling post cards and later went on to become the Chief of Publicity at Camp Glen, making her the first woman in the North Carolina National Guard. Wootten was also the first woman to take an aerial photo and is credited as the designer of the Pepsi logo that she sketched for her neighbor and founder of the company, Caleb Bradham. and created its iconic logo for her neighbor Caleb Bradham who invented the drink.
Wootten was the first woman to make a photograph from an airplane in 1914, in her home town of New Bern North Carolina. Wootten was the first woman in the National Guard, making the rank of, Adjutant General and Chief of publicity. Her uncle was North Carolina Congressman, Hap Barden. Wootten utilized Barden’s power by providing images she made of a deteriorating Camp Bragg. Her images of soldiers living in squalor, saved Camp Bragg from closure. Today, we know it as Fort Bragg.
Wootten’s photography illustrated five books during her lifetime, Charleston: Azalias and Old Bricks, North Carolina Homes and Gardens and From My Highest Hill, among others. Her images fill UNC at Chapel Hill year books and news papers. Her larger than life Pictorialist photographs line North Carolina State Government building walls and Court Houses.
A book by Jerry Cotton titled, Light and Air, was a brief description in words and pictures about Wootten. Anthony Paul Lilly, a New Bern native as well has written a feature script about Wootten’s life and is also publishing a series of books with Fahey/ Klein Gallery in Beverly Hills about Wootten in conjunction with UNC at Chapel Hill.
Lilly whom recently squashed the “rumors ” and confirmed that Wootten helped name Pepsi Cola and created its iconic Trademark.
His Wootten-Moulton Museum collection holds hundreds of family letters and business papers stating the working relationship with Caleb Bradham.
During his research he also uncovered Wootten’s original concept drawings of the famous drink.
In addition to her work as a pioneering photographer and Artist, Wootten was the staunchest Suffrage advocate using her fine standing and reputation throughout the south to aid Women’s organizations including; The Women’s Missionary League.
In 1915 she became the President of the League’s publicity department, creating all official portraits.
In 1913 her work in portraiture intrigued Gregg Cherry, at the time an ordinary Soldier at Camp Bragg. He needed portraits made of him to send home to his family and discovered Wootten’s talents to be above average.
While delivering the finished portraits to Lieutenant Cherry at Camp Bragg, other Soldiers took a quick liking to Wootten’s handy work and began a rush of orders.
This led to Wootten being given permission to open a photographic studio on tbe base, ( The Photo Hut ) and eventually the first commission for a woman in the National Guard. Eventually Lieutenant Cherry became North Carolina’s 61st Governor. Cherry Point air station and base was named after Cherry, as well as Cherry Hospital.
The Wootten-Moulton Studio received The Showmanship Award from The Walt Disney Company for outstanding achievements in professional photography. Wootten’s photography and writing contributions led to no less than 6 major books, including, Charleston : Azaleas and Old Bricks, North Carolina Home and Gardens, and From My Highest Hill.