Working the Rock: Newfoundland and Labrador in the Photographs of Edith S. Watson, 1890-1930


Between 1892 and 1930, American photographer Edith S. Watson made repeated trips to outport Newfoundland and coastal Labrador, getting to know the rugged land and its extraordinary people. Along the way, she explored, recorded, and compiled a treasury of captivating, dignified images of life at the turn of the century.   Honest depictions of ordinary women are almost invisible in photographs of the early 20th century. Not in Watson’s work. She shows women and girls kneeling to draw water from wells, carrying loads of hay or spruce boughs wrapped in blankets, bending over fish on flakes. In doing so, she has left a rich collection of images seen nowhere else.

Author Bio

Frances Rooney

Frances Rooney’s books include Working Light: The Wandering Life of Photographer Edith S. Watson, Our Lives (finalist for the Lambda Award), and two books for the Women’s Hall of Fame Series—Extraordinary Women Explorers and Exceptional Women Environmentalists. She lives in Toronto.

Newfoundland Quarterly:In a world of 24-hour news cycles and digital ephemera, it seems impossible that there are stories that have not been told, images that have not been seen. And yet, in basements and attics, crawlspaces and even the cavities between walls, treasure troves of documents from the last century and beyond still gather dust, unviewed and unread. Toronto-based writer Frances Rooney has found just such a treasure in the photographs and letters of Edith S Watson. A chance encounter with an image credited to Watson in a WWI-era magazine captivated Rooney, and started her on 30-odd years of research yielding multiple articles, a scholarly picture book, and now the Newfoundland and Labrador-focused Working the Rock, beautifully produced by Boulder Publications. “One look and I was hooked,” Rooney writes of the photograph that made such an impression. “Who was the photographer? Where was she from? What other photographs had she taken?” – Andreae Callanan Read More

Working the Rock tells story of American Edith S. Watson’s travels in late 1800s, early 1900s American photographer Edith S. Watson’s 40-year love affair with Newfoundland and Labrador and the stunning photos she produced here are the focus of a new book. – Barb Sweet Read More

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