Fifty Photographs: selections from SCUA collections

Old Main Street, Deerfield, Mass.

Photo by Frances and Mary Allen, ca.1910

Members of a movement to make New England quaint again, the Allen sisters were talented photographers based in Deerfield, Mass. Having taken up the craft in the 1880s, the sisters became key figures within the region's thriving arts and crafts movement. By early in the twentieth century, Deerfield had become the epicenter of a movement of artisans who celebrated traditional crafts like needlework and weaving, pottery and joinery, drawing on the colonial heritage they saw all around them. The movement was not simple nostalgia, but a deeply-felt response to the proliferation of mass production and automation in American life.

Often viewed as a modern technology more than an art, photography did not always sit easily with arts and crafts production, but the Allens used the medium to its fullest.  Highly skilled technically, they brought a pictorialist aesthetic to their work that transformed the Connecticut River Valley into a nostalgic placeof rural lanes and colonial homes that found a nautral audience in a burgeoning touristic market. Despite the many points silence in their work -- what they chose not to depict -- the image created by the Allens has endured.