Margaret Watkins

“...stark mechanical objects revealed an unguessed dignity; commonplace articles showed curves and angles which could be repeated with the varying pattern of a fugue. The comprehending photographer saw, paused and seized his camera! “  1926 

Margaret Watkins was a photographer of portraits and landscapes, still lifes, street scenes and works of early advertising and commercial designs.  In the 1920s she was at the height of her career, living in New York City, winning prizes in international exhibitions and teaching at the renowned Clarence H. White School of Photography.  She was an active member and one-time vice president of the Pictorial Photographers of America. 

She spent her childhood in Hamilton, Ontario where her father was a successful businessman and owned a large department store. She played piano, sang in choirs and enjoyed attending concerts. This life-long interest in music is reflected in her portraits of musicians or the musical titles that she gave her photographs: Domestic Symphony

 In 1913 she worked in a photography studio in Boston, and two years later moved to New York City to work for the photographer Alice Boughton.  She studied at the Clarence H. White School of Photography where she also taught.  In 1919 she began her domestic still lifes, beautiful compositions of light, shadow, and rounded forms.  She was acquainted with Katherine Dreier and made a series of portraits of the art patron who promoted modern art in America. In 1928 she left for Glasgow to visit her mother’s sisters and never returned to North America.  

She was elected an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, and was the first female member of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Photographic Association. While she visited international photography exhibitions and in 1933 joined a group of film enthusiasts on a trip to the Soviet Union, there is no evidence that she earned any income from her photographs from the 1930s to her death. 

Self-Portrait, 1919
Copyright J.A. Mulholland, Glasgow, Scotland.

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