Summer 2017 the Jasper County Records Center began an exciting undertaking, the Carl Taylor Photographic Negative Digitization Project. This multi-year project takes our extensive collection of black and white photographic negatives from Taylor’s photography studio and brings them into the 21st century, by providing new and improved access, context, and preservation.
William Carl Taylor (1919-1990) was in the unique position to capture southwest Missouri when he opened Taylor’s Studio in Carthage, Missouri in 1955. Through his portrait work at his studio, his role as lone photographer and photojournalist at the Carthage Press (from 1955 to 1965), and his freelance photography for a variety of customers, he was able to document a rapidly changing and vibrant mid-century America.
Part of what makes Taylor’s work so unique is its incredible variety. He was masterful at capturing the everyday and the spectacular, the ordinary and the sublime. His collection includes both shots that are documentary in the way they capture the past and those that are transcendent in their artistic impact. His work allows us to see a Jasper County, Missouri (including towns and communities like Joplin, Carthage, Webb City, Carterville, Carl Junction, Avilla, Jasper, Sarcoxie, LaRussell, Alba, and Asbury) that no longer exists. It allows us to see everyday life as it was lived; to experience the past in vividly and palpable manner.
The Jasper County Records Center holds in its collection the photographic negatives for the majority of Carl Taylor’s work shot during the Taylor Studio period (1955-1978), including his work for the Carthage Press, his studio portraiture, and his freelance work. In total, this amounts to approximately 100,000 individual photographs. Taylor was a prodigious photographer that continued to shoot hundreds of photos even in the midst of his successful political career as a city councilman (1963-1966) and mayor (1966-1970) of Carthage. It should be noted that almost all of these images haven’t been seen since they were initially shot and published.
Carl Taylor’s archives of photographic negatives found their way to the Jasper County Records Center around 2004 when Taylor’s wife Edith Wydick Taylor donated them to the Center under the care of then-Archivist Steve Weldon. When new Director/Archivist Cheyenne Flotree arrived in early 2017, he made it a point to quickly dedicate resources to begin a digitization program to ensure that this valuable collection would have both improved access and increased preservation. We hope that through this digitization program and online platform a new generation of academics, students, local historians, and everyday people will be exposed to the wonderful work of Carl Taylor.
This website is dedicated to Carl Taylor, his wife Edith Wydick Taylor and his daughter Carla Taylor Davis.