Main Floor
West Wing

William Edward Burgess
1871-1935
Willie E Burgess began his career in photography in the late 1800's in Scottsville, a little town on the James River in central Virginia. Until his death in 1935 he chronicled the people and landscape of Scottsville and the surrounding region, leaving behind over 450,000 photographic postcard images, not to mention family photographs which today are treasured keepsakes in many households throughout Virginia. The enormous volume of 3 x 5 postcards, many of them hand colored, have found their way into museums and private collections across the country. They routinely sell on E-bay and other Internet auction sites for up to $60 apiece.

The photographs below and on subsequent pages have been cropped from their original postcard format. Click each image for an enlargement.
Postcards of Virginia at the time of W.E. Burgess
The photographs seen here are reproduced in their present condition. While some exhibit of more or less natural coloration, others display a single tint, or tone. Some of these tints were apparently intentional, while others were inherent in the photographic materials of the time. Still other images have been subject to the adverse affects of age and atmosphere. Rolling your mouse over the enlarged image will reveal a computer enhanced rendition of that image.
Although early techniques of color photography had been developed by the early 1900's, the hand application of paints and oils was the most practical method available to W.E. Burgess, and other photographers of his time. Hand coloring is still creatively used by photoartists today.
Destroyed by fire in the mid 20th century, Willie Burgess operated Idylwood Studio overlooking the James River for most of his professional career. The studio featured a huge northern skylight, which provided soft natural light for indoor portraits. Portrait photographers today rely heavily on electronic flash, but in the early days of photography such technology was not an option.

The photographs below show Idylwood Studio's shooting and framing area. Professional photographers will observe that many of the light control devices in use in the early 1900's are still popular today.
Portraits and
Self Portraits of
Willie Burgess