Loren “Ren” Phillips, Photographer in Saguache and Grand Junction

George Norris
L. R. Phillips, photographer. Portrait of George Norris, 1888, albumen silver print of cabinet card mount.  Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.

Loren “Ren” Rawson  Phillips was born on October 27, 1867, in Hoosick Falls, New York to Lorenzo Simon Phillips and Olive Adelia Snyder Phillips.  In 1887, Phillips opened a photography studio in Saguache, a town of about 600 residents in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.  He charged $3.00 for a dozen cabinet cards, like the dapper portrait of George Norris with his bicycle.  Note that the brick wall behind the bicyclist is actually a beautifully crafted painted backdrop.  

Phillips photographed everything from babies to mining interests.  He also made stereoviews and specialized in copying  and enlarging photographs.

He exhibited his work at the Second Annual Fair of the Southwestern Colorado Industrial Association.  In 1890, Phillips photographed a city street in Saguache showing the office of the new Saguache Crescent newspaper, retouching his negative to add the sign for the paper.  At times, Phillips taught school in addition to his photographic work.  Phillips closed his Saguache photo studio on October 31, 1890, and moved to Aspen to assist in his brother’s hardware business.

L. R. Phillips, photographer. Saguache Street Scene, 1890; Denver Public Library

By 1892, Phillips lived in Roswell, New Mexico where he operated a photography studio, Phillips & Sheek.  Sheek’s first name is unknown, but the team made photographs that were displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian  Exposition in Chicago.  Their photographs focused on the Alfalfa Palace, constructed from 2,500 bales of alfalfa and built for the Southeastern New Mexico and Pecos Valley Fair held in October 1892.  He married Ola Lee Fountain in Chaves, New Mexico on August 12, 1894.

Phillips returned to Colorado in the late 1890s, settling in Grand Junction where he continued to make studio portraits until 1899 when he sold his studio.  Phillips remained in Colorado for the next fifteen years working as a school principal and serving as town treasurer of Fruita.  He patented a globe for teaching geography, a fire kindler, and an oscillating water motor.

By 1930, Phillips lived in Los Angeles and was employed in the insurance industry.  He died on December 3, 1944, leaving a wife and five children.

Thanks to Beverly Brannan, recently retired Curator of Photography, Library of Congress for editing assistance and Karen Hendrix for pointing out the painted backdrop.  


George R. Porter’s Winter Scenes

George R. Porter, photographer. [Cabin in the snow], circa 1885, 5 x 4″ albumen silver print. History Colorado, 90.501.39
George R. Porter’s photographic artistry and expertise stand out among the 19th century photographers working in Ouray county.  Based in Sneffels, Colorado, a thriving mining community in the 1880s, Sneffels is now a ghost town.  During Porter’s time, winter travel between Ouray and Sneffels could prove dangerous due to avalanches and rock slides.

Porter’s use of a variety of photographic formats surprised me.  He made stereo views, boudoir cards, and unusual 5 x 4″ sized cards–I had never seen this format before.

George R. Porter was born around 1845 in Ottawa, Illinois.  He married Elizabeth Deland on May 27, 1867 in La Salle, Illinois.  In 1873, Elizabeth gave birth to their only child, Jane “Jennie” Porter. Porter worked as an express agent in Ottawa until moving to Colorado in 1875.  George came west to prospect near Georgetown, Colorado leaving his wife and daughter in Illinois.

George R. Porter, photographer. Detail of cabin in snow, albumen silver print. History Colorado-Denver, Colorado, 90.501.39

Porter relocated to Ouray County in 1877, where he would live for the remainder of his life.  Porter wore many hats, owning an interest in the Revenue Mine, serving as postmaster at Mount Sneffels and running a general store that included a room devoted to his photographs. He specialized in winter scenes and usually included people in his views.  One of his more unexpected views captured a funeral procession on snowshoes, as a group of miners carried their deceased colleague’s body to Ouray via a sled.

Snow drifts predominate Porter’s photograph of a cabin (above).  A close look at the left side of the image reveals a man smoking a long pipe and two cats, making the stark scene more hospitable.

George R. Porter, photographer. Frozen waterfalls, Canyon Creek,  circa 1885, albumen silver stereo view. History Colorado, 84.192.565

On December 10, 1895, a nail stuck into Porter’s knee, resulting in blood poisoning.  During his illness, Porter stayed at Ouray’s Beaumont Hotel.  He  succumbed to his illness on March 14, 1896.