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The Photography of Lloyd Gainer

Worth 10,000 Words

By John Lilly

Vincent and Francis Gainer
Vincent Gainer (left) and Francis Gainer, with a nice pile of walnuts. Though one might not guess it to look at this picture, Vincent (1898-1977), the second eldest, grew to become a teacher and principal at Tunnelton High School. Photograph by Lloyd Gainer.

Until the day that modern science can master the art of time travel, our best window to the past might be through vintage photography. And few of these windows are more inviting than the exquisite photographs of Lloyd M. Gainer (1870-1905).

Descended from one of western Virginia’s earliest families, Lloyd traced his roots to Ireland through his great-grandfather, Cornelius Gainer, who emigrated from Dublin in 1725. His descendants made their way into what would become Barbour and Gilmer counties by Revolutionary War times, and they remain a prominent presence there still.

Lloyd McCubben Gainer was born in Gilmer County in 1870. He had one sister, named Myrtle. Though his family farmed, Lloyd moved to Parkersburg as an adult and made his living as an accountant. At some point, he developed an interest in the growing art of photography and became quite active as a hobbyist.

He married Kathryn “Kate” Gaston (1878-1956) in 18__, and the pair had seven children. These youngsters, and other unidentified local children, were the featured subjects of many of Lloyd’s finest photographs. He also photographed adults, scenery, floods, trains, and other sights in central and western West Virginia, but his casual portraits of children, taken mostly in Parkersburg between 1890 and 1905, stand out technically and artistically, as exceptional works of photography.


You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.