Portrait of Mary Tape and her family, 1884. Photograph courtesy of Alisa Kim
Portrait of Mary Tape and her family, 1884. Photograph courtesy of Alisa Kim

Mary Tape (1857-1934), though best known for her efforts to desegregate California schools, was an accomplished amateur photographer recognized for her technical and artistic skill. She
became a member of the California Camera Club upon its founding in 1891. Clubs helped photography become a more accessible hobby for middle-class Americans; members could use developing facilities, attend classes, and subscribe to publications like the Pacific Coast Photographer.

Tape made her own slides and experimented with exposure times. She also learned to operate a “magic lantern” – a device that used a single light source and an inverted glass negative to project an image onto a blank wall or screen. Most of Tape’s existing photographs are of her family.

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