Benjamin A Gifford

Photo added by Tom Todd

Benjamin A Gifford

  • Birth 11 Aug 1859 Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois, USA
  • Death 5 Mar 1936 Vancouver, Clark County, Washington, USA
  • Burial Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA
  • Memorial ID 20359912

Pioneer Photographer. He decided early that he did not want to be a farmer and left the family farm to become an apprentice photographer in Sedalia, Missouri. After a few months he formed a partnership in Fort Scott, Kansas. Before long he decided he could earn a lot more money on his own and headed for the Northwest where he was to become one of the foremost western pioneer photographers. Often he would take an entire day, and some times two, to set up a single shot. His motto was, "Timing is everything." He overcame the Native Americans' superstition that a photograph trapped their soul by applying liberal doses of fees and photographed thousands of warriors and women in his lifetime. One of his most popular portraits was a beautiful Indian mother and her child, The Indian Madonna. When one Indian lady took a five dollar gold piece to pose for him and then hid behind a blanket, he took a photo of her mangy old dog and it became a best seller. Of the thousands of photographs that he took during his 36 year career, his favorite was Sunset on the Columbia. The photo looked more like a painting and its subject was the Columbia River, two tepees, a mangy old dog and the setting sun. An Indian called it Wa-ne-ka means "going down of the evening sun." In 1920, he and his wife retired to the banks of a creek near Vancouver, Washington, built a rustic log cabin and called their home "Wa-ne-ka." His tombstone bears only his famous signature, which is recognized all over the world, as it appears on all his photos.


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  • Created by: Tom Todd
  • Added: 8 Jul 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20359912
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Benjamin A Gifford (11 Aug 1859–5 Mar 1936), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20359912, citing Lincoln Memorial Park, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, USA ; Maintained by Tom Todd (contributor 46900975) .