Exhibit to Feature Work by Acclaimed Jamestown Photographer

One of the many images from the Chautauqua County Historical Society’s Bowman Collection. Several of the images will be on display in an exhibit at the Chautauqua County Bicentennial History Fair Aug. 13 and 14 in Mayville, N.Y. (Photo processed by CCHS Trustee Niles Denning).

MAYVILLE, N.Y. – One of the most prolific photographers in the history of Chautauqua County will be featured at the Bicentennial History Fair on Aug. 13 and 14 in Mayville. The Chautauqua County Historical Society plans to present an exhibit featuring ten 16-by-20-inch sepia prints of noted photographer John Oliver Bowman (1884-1977).

“Bowman was from Jamestown and did more than any other man to create a record of daily life in Chautauqua County in the mid-20th century,” explains society president James O’Brien. “His work reflects animals, working people and landscapes – three common themes that Bowman explored.”

O’Brien adds that Bowman won national recognition as a photographer during his lifetime. “What’s astonishing is that Bowman achieved award-winning work with a simple Kodak box camera while working full-time for the county for 45 years,” he O’Brien. In 1946, Collier’s Magazine even declared Bowman the “undisputed box camera champion of the universe.”

Unfortunately, Bowman has all but been forgotten not only nationally, but also in Chautauqua County. Through the exhibit, the Chautauqua County Historical Society is hoping to once again bring attention to Bowman and his noteworthy career as a photographer.

Bowman was not only a photographer, but also served as past director of the Chautauqua County Historical Society and was the museum curator at the McClurg Museum in Westfield, N.Y. After his death in 1977, he left the vast majority of his collection to the society. Today, it owns over 8,000 of Bowman’s prints and negatives, the most complete record of a remarkable and prolific career.

In addition to the exhibit, the society will have Bowman’s box cameras on display during the history fair. Those who attend will be also able to pick up an exhibit guide, which contains information on his life along with a memorial to Bowman delivered in 1977 by James M. Wheeler, secretary of the historical society at the time.

“Bowman loved the historical society and Chautauqua County,” O’Brien says. “We hope this exhibit will not only renew interest in Bowman, but also inspire others to take pride in the natural wonders and beauty of our county.”

About the History Fair
The Bicentennial History Fair celebrates Chautauqua County’s rich and vibrant history by bringing together 54 organizations from the County that work to preserve and promote our local history. The History Fair will take place at Chautauqua Suites Conference Center on Route 394 in Mayville, on Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 14 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The History Fair is a Bicentennial Passport destination, so be sure to stop at the County Historian’s booth to get your passport stamped!

For more information, contact Michelle Henry, County Historian, 753-4857 or henrym@co.chautauqua.ny.us.

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