40 – The Peasleys – Part 2

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Notes

The 1916 Portland directory is not available; in 1915, Albert and Alda Peasley each are working for other photographers, but by 1917 “The Peasleys” studio is open, run by both of them. They run that studio today until 1922, and then 1923, Alda Peasley is in the directory as running “The Peasleys” studio by herself.

The Peasleys studio name (printed on photo's folder) (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
The Peasleys studio name (printed on photo’s folder) (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

Therefore, the following undated portrait by “The Peasleys” studio could have been taken either by Bert or Alda; however, Alda is the photographer who becomes noted for her portraits, and this is a very well-done portrait, so it seems likely that she had a hand in taking this photo:.

Portrait of a man, by The Peasleys studio, Portland, Oregon (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Portrait of a man, by The Peasleys studio, Portland, Oregon (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

There following undated photo is in a folder marked with a different logo for the “Peasley Studio, Portland, Oregon”.

Peasley studio, Portland, Oregon (name printed on photo's enclosing folder) (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Peasley Studio, Portland, Oregon (name printed on photo’s enclosing folder) (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

Since Alda Peasley ran a studio on her own in Portland after the breakup of her marriage, it’s possible that her logo became just “Peasley Studio”, but I have no direct evidence that this was her logo. However, the only Peasleys to run photographer studios in Portland, Oregon in the period 1913-1930 were Albert and Alda Peasley, so this photo is likely to have been taken by one of them.

Portrait of a man and woman, Peasley studio, Portland, Oregon (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)
Portrait of a man and woman, Peasley Studio, Portland, Oregon (Courtesy McIntyre-Culy Collection)

You can find examples of Alda Jourdan’s photography in the Portland Art Museum’s collection here. It includes examples of Portraits, as well as some stylistic scenic shots that are labelled as works by Albert and Alda Jourdan together, including a very atmospheric shot of Portland in the 1920s on a rainy day.

Alda and Bert’s son, Erven Peasley Jourdan, becomes a photographer and filmmaker in Los Angeles. Here’s a link to some materials by him; a couple of his photographs that were auctioned off are listed here.


Lifeline


Recommended Links

  • Ancestry.com (census records, city directories, and more; paid account required – Visit
  • Family Search website has U.S. Federal Census and more; free account required – Visit
  • Geneologybank.com has a selection of digitized newspapers from the United States; paid account required – Visit
  • Newspapers.com has a selection of digitized newspapers from the United States; paid account required – Visit
  • Newspaperarchives.com has a selection of digitized newspapers from the United States; paid account required – Visit
  • Peter Palmquist database at the Yale Beinecke Library – Visit
  • William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan: Directory of Early Michigan Photographers by David V. Tinder (2013) – View

Transcript

You’re listening to Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.
Support for this project is provided by listeners like you. Visit my website at p3photographers “dot” net for ideas on how you, too, can become a supporter of the project.

Welcome to Photographs, Pistols & Parasols, the podcast where we celebrate early women artisan photographers.

I’m your host, Lee McIntyre.

In today’s episode, we have part 2 of the Peasley saga. We’re going to do a deep dive to understand the full life and career of Alda Burke Peasely Jordan.

For more information about any of the women discussed in today’s episode, visit my website at p3photographers.net.

That’s letter “p”, number “3”, photographers “dot” net.

*****

Hi everybody, and welcome to today’s episode of Photographs, Pistols & Parasols. We’re going to be taking a deep dive into the life and career of Alda Burke Peasley. In the last episode, I talked a little bit about how Alda and Bert married in the 1910s and opened and ran “The Peasleys” studio in Portland together. And then Bert leaves town, and eventually they get divorced circa 1922 1923.

But as it turns out, Alda Burke Peasley. has a fascinating career after Bert leaves town. So, right they must be filing for divorce and dividing up the assets and deciding who gets the studio. Bert leaves town and leaves Alda Peasley as the sole owner and operator of “The Peasleys” studio in 1923.

And in 1923, Bert Peasley is not in the Portland directory. He’s already moved on. By 1924, they’ve finalized divorce and *Bert Peasley* is the one who gets the rights to the name “The Peasleys” studio. Now he takes that name, and with his third wife he opens a studio by the same name, both in Klamath Falls and later in Medford, Oregon. Alda Peasley stays in Portland, and she just changes the name of the studio to Mrs. A.B. Peasley; that would be “A. B.” for Alda Burke Peasley. She continues to operate the studio on her own for many years, all the way up until 1929.

Now between 1924-1929 she actually has some big changes in her life. You see in 1924 in the Portland directory, Alda Peasley is now Alda Jordon, married to a man named Albert Jourdan. “Albert” is written Albert, but he was French. So, even though it turns out that I had multiple “Alberts” running around with this Peasley saga, I’m going to refer to Albert Peasley always as “Bert” and Albert Jourdan always as [a french pronunciation of] “Albert.” In the 1920s, Albert Jourdan shows up in Portland and by 1924 Albert and Alda are married. But Albert [Jourdan] is not a photographer. He’s a sign painter, at least that’s the profession listed in the directory.

And I should note that in the photographers list in the sort of yellow pages at the back of the directory, Mrs. A.B. Peasley is continued to be listed asrunning a studio under her previous married name.

In 1925 Mrs. A. B. Peasley is still in both the photography listings and the residence listings. Albert Jourdan has disappeared, though. There’s no longer an entry for Mr. and Mrs. Albert Jourdan in the Portland directory, even though Mrs. A.B. Peasley is still living and working there.

There’s no Albert Jourdan listed in the 1926 directory in Portland either.

So not in 25 and not in 26 But Mrs. A.B. Peasley is still running a very popular photography gallery there in Portland. She’s also listed under her first married name, “Peasley” [in the residence listings, too.] But there is no listing for Alda or Albert Jourdan.

So we’re trying to sort out what’s going on. Albert Jourdan returns to Portland in 1927. He’s not listed as being married to Alda, though, and he isn’t listed as having a profession, buthje is living with Alda in the same location where she has her studio.

Then in 1928, Albert Jourdan is suddenly listed again married to Alda, and he’s now a photographer.

But so is Mrs. A.B. Peasley – she’s still listed separately in the residences and the photographers list.

So in other words, Alda continues to list herself as Mrs. A.B Peasley, even when Albert Jourdan comes back, and they presumably start living together again as man and wife.

In 1929 they do form a new studio, called Peasley-Jourdan. Apparently, Alda has taught Albert how how to do photography, because he hasn’t been a photographer up to this point. But suddenly they’re running this joint gallery, Peasley-Jourdan, which is managed by both Alda and Albert Jardan.

Around 1929 and 1930, if we look in the newspapers, we start to see Alda and Albert exhibiting their work – their photographic work – internationall. They’re winning awards in the US, they’re winning awards at salons and exhibits abroad .. they’re really being celebrated as new, vibrant artists.

Albert is noted for his architectural photographs, and Alda as a specialist in portraiture work.

Doing random searches on the internet, it’s easier to to find some information about Albert than Alda.

I mean, Albert’s included in all these stories about photographers from the early 1930s, which was a time when the photography movement in the US was focused on what was called “straight” photography. It was a move away from the pictorialist or romanticized style that up that point hadbeen popular in the early 1900s. Albert apparently was a fan of straight photography; he and Alda appear to have both been proponents of straight photography, to the extent that they were part of the whole photographers movement [for that style] in the early 1930s with people like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston and some of the other movers and shakers in photography in the US at that time.

But Albert has a falling out, apparently, at some point with at least with Edward Weston; he’s quoted in several books as making very critical comments about Weston. One of the books I read described Albert Jourdan as “a very bitter man about photography.”

Whether he wasn’t getting the kind of acclaim he thought he deserved, or whether Alda was receiving acclaim and he wasn’t,. I don’t know exactly. But it’s clear that Albert and Alda were tied together with their photography in the sense that even though they were photographing different kinds of subjects, they always exhibited together.

They exhibited in Portland a great deal; the Portland Art Museum had a lot of exhibits [of their work] throughout the early 1930s, exhibit of their work either the architecture the portrait, or combined. There are some beautiful pictures in the newspapers from this period, showing the kinds of work that you’d see it at the opening of a particular exhibit at the Portland Art Museum in the early 1930s by Alda and Albert Jourdan. And always by either Alda or healthcare Georgetown.

Unfortunately,Albert Jourdan dies after a short illness in 1936.

That’s the year that Alda Jourdan first seem to be exhibiting on her own in museums and salons internationally.

Starting in 1937, Alda Jourdan is listed in the photographers list [in the yellow pages]. Of course Peasley-Jourdan studio is no longer in existence; it’s just Mrs. Alda Jourdan.

And it is as “Mrs. Alda Jourdan” that Alda becomes very well known and very well respected in the photographic community in the US and abroad. And particularly in Portland, where she’s seen as one of the preeminent portrait photographers around.

In fact, Alda is so acclaimed for her portrait work that she begins to publish writings explaining the finer points of taking portrait photography. She explains techniques and tricks and tips to help aspiring photographers master the art.

There’s a series of articles that appear in the mid 1930s and several different magazines, including American Photography, and Camera Craft. They cover topics like photographing eyes or photographing the mouth or photographing the nose, breaking down what a photographer need to consider when taking pictures of a person. There’s technical advice, as well as artistic considerations on how to capture a natural expression as well as how to capture a flattering portrait, making sure that the nose is in proper light and the eyes are focused on something natural, so that the sitter is at ease.

For example, Alda writes,

..If the main idea is to convey a particular expression that is very apparent, then any pose, position or general direction of the eyes, for example, is acceptable…. So rather than endeavor to have eyes look in a certain direction, or convey what might be termed a neutral expression, we now try to follow and record every special move or direction that they naturally take. The thought or attitude of the model at the moment of recording is very clearly read by the direction and expression of the eyes.
Alda Jourdan, Photographing Eyes“, Camera Craft, August 1937

It’s interesting that Alda explains really some of the secrets that make her portrait work so special.

As Alda’s reputation grows, she starts taking pictures of people like judges and lawyers, people whose pictures appear in the newspapers all over the country. There are pictures of debutantes, and socialites, and also other photographers seek her out to get their portrait taken.

For example, a photo she took of the photographer Minor White is used repeatedly in exhibits in places like the Museum of Modern Art. decades after she took the picture.

Alda’s work appears in newspapers and books and catalogs throughout her lifetime as well, continuing throughout the 1930s, the 1940s, and well into the 1950s

In 1955, there’s a big interview done with her in the paper, where they’re asking her advice on basically how to be such a good photographer, but also what her advice would be to girls going into the photography profession, because in the 1950s, it was seen as something that maybe a lot of demand didn’t do, though, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know that there were a fair number of women who were doing photography as a career along, but it did drop off in the 1940s. And so in the 1950s Alda Jourdan is one of the proponents of getting girls really excited about doing photography as a career.

Now, as I said, she continues to exhibit … she continues to do portrait work .. she continues to have pictures appearing in the newspapers all the way up until at least the early 1960s.

She dies in 1962, and when I found her obituary, the obituary actually mentioned that she married a man named Marvin Jones in 1956.

Unfortunately, he winds up dying in 1960. But in *his* obituary, it says his widow is the Portland portrait photographer, Alda Jourdan Jones. Now interestingly, in her obituary in 1962, she’s just listed as Alda Burke Peasley Jourdan.

So it’s really fun to find Alda Jourdan. I had not heard of her. But it was incredible to realize while looking back through all the exhibits and things that she did that she was really big in her own lifetime.

When you start to look back at some of the online materials about Alda and Albert Jourdan, sometimes it makes it sound like Albert Jourdan taught Alda how to do photography, and that he was really the mover and shaker behind that pairing.

But in fact, I think when we look at the record, we see that really she started her career before she even married Bert Peasley. And then, after she married Bert Peasley, they ran their studio together. And then, after he left, she wound up marrying Albert Jourdan, sure, but she still did her own photography studio right along all the way… right up until 1962 when she died.

So it’s just fascinating that this woman with such a wide body of work was so overlooked on a lot of the sites that I looked at.

Now, gratifyingly, the Portland Art Museum actually has several works by Alda Jourda as well as by her husband, Albert Jourdan, and some of those have been digitized. I’ll put a link to those in the episode notes, so you can admire both his wonderful architecture photos, and her marvelous portrait work.

One last note about Alda Jourdan. Remember, she was married to Bert Peasley,

and they had a son, Ervan, in 1918.

After Bert leaves, and Alda marries Albert Jourdan, Ervan Peasley becomes Ervan Jourdan, or, sometimes, his full name is is listed as Ervan Peasley Jourdan. That’s key because he’s actually a successful photographer when he grows up; he becomes very well known [in his own right]. I’ll put a link to some information about his photography in the episode notes.

What’s intriguing though, is oneof the things I found in a book online is that Ervan later said that he learned photography from a family friend after he was all grown up — he does not credit either his mother or his father for teaching him photography.

So that’s really intriguing, the idea that he didn’t actually learn anything from his parents who were professional photographers, particularly his mother and his stepfather, who were very famous in their day. It’s not unusual, I guess, because

I have run across other photographers who have claimed that their famous photographer-parents did not teach them anything about photography. But it was interesting to run across that tidbit of information for Ervan Peasley Jourdan.

Interestingly, when Bert Paisley dies (apparently alone in 1948 with none of his family around him) His obituary actually lists that he is the father of the photogrpaher Ervan Peasely Jourdan, but doesn’t mention that he was ever himself a photographer.

As with so many of the stories that I bring you here on the podcast, I think we really need to rediscover the wonderful work of Alda Peasely Jourdan, and celebrate the fact that in her day, she was popular. She was a successful woman photographer, starting in the 1920s and continuing until the 1960s. A fabulously long career for a fabulous photographer.

As I said, in the episode notes today, I’ll include the links to Alda and Albert Jourdan’s works at the Portland Art Museum.

I’ll also include a couple of photos that my husband Chris and I have discovered in antique stores that were done by “The Peasleys” studio in Portland, Oregon. Now that was either work that Bert and Aldo Peasley, or — because Alda did run that studio on her own for a while — it could be that the pictures that we have were taken by Alda and had nothing to do with Bert. But in any case, they are great portraits. And so I’m going to include those copies on the Episode Notes for today’s episode.

As always, that material can found on my website at p3photographers.net that’s letter “p” number “3” photographers “dot” net.

If you have any questions, send me an email at podcast

“at” p3photographers “dot” net. And remember, you can follow the podcast on facebook at facebook.com/p3 photographers.

So that’s it for today. I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the family named Peasley who wound up running photography studios in various places, particularly in Oregon, in the early 20th century. When I started this investigation, looking at that photo from last time of my husband’s grandmother. I didn’t expect that one picture from one studio in Medford, Oregon would lead me to uncover stories about all of the Peasleys, including Bert Paisley and his wives, particularly the two wives that did photography with him, Lorene Peasley, his third wife .. .and, of course, today’s subject, Alda Burke Peasley Jourdan.

I’ll be back next time with another early women artisan photographer’s story.

Until then, I’m Lee, and this is Photographs, Pistols and Parasols.

49 episodes