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Aerial view, Chapel Hill 1939

A Thousand Words
By Jock Lauterer

Chapel Hill’s pioneering woman photographer, Bayard Wootten, took to the air to make this stunning bird’s-eye view of the campus in 1939. Brought to my attention by 88-year-old William Huskey of McCauley Street, the photograph is the cover shot from a delightful little photo pamphlet titled “Ways and Byways of Chapel Hill,” featuring 16 of Wootten’s “slices of life” photographs around the communities. Of this aerial photograph, I can’t help imagining the redoubtable Wootten leaning out of an open cockpit biplane as it zoomed low and banked at a precipitous angle so she could get this shot of the campus — probably using some form of the classic two-fisted Speed Graphic 4×5 press camera. To orient yourself: that’s Cameron Ave. running diagonally top to bottom and the Carolina Inn roughly in the center of the photograph. Notice also the smokestacks of the old power plant behind present-day Phillips Hall. Thanks to Mr. Huskey (and the good folks at Wilson Library’s N.C. Collection), we’ll be featuring more of Wootten’s work this fall. What a woman. What a photographer!

Do you have an important old photo that you value? Email your photo to jock@email.unc.edu and include the story behind the picture. Because every picture tells a story. And its worth? A thousand words.
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