Before The Selfie: The Gledhill Portraits

Portraits by Carolyn & Edwin Gledhill

The exhibition features portraits of culturally and socially influential figures from Santa Barbara’s storied past, photographed by two people who helped mold this community into a nationally recognized Mecca of the arts more than a century ago.

A Canadian native, William Edwin Gledhill came to Santa Barbara in 1903.  By 1905, he was overseeing the camera department of Faulding’s Bookstore and two years later he married Carolyn Even, who operated a photography studio with her sister.

The couple opened the Gledhill Studios near the luxury Potter Hotel and began a career as portrait photographers of local luminaries and celebrities visiting the area.  Carolyn manned the camera, while Edwin posed the subject, developed the film, with Carolyn making the proofs.  It was truly a team effort.

The result of this cooperative effort was a collection of pictorial masterpieces with its softer focus and diffusion of light.  In the Gledhills’ hands, a photograph became a painting, using all the photographic tools at their disposal to bring out the inner beauty and essence of their subject.

Carolyn died in 1935 and Edwin, with his second wife Andriette, turned his energies to historic preservation and the history of this region, serving for a number of years as the executive director of the Santa Barbara Historical Society.

Peggy Gledhill, wedding portrait