The latest book on frontier photographer Evelyn Cameron, who arrived in Montana in 1889, is written in the Young Adult genre, but author Lorna Milne doesn’t dumb down the language. She uses parenthetical notes to explain arcane tidbits that might not be familiar to present-day readers and writes candidly about Cameron’s unusual marital situation.
Cameron traveled from England, an against her family’s wishes, with a friend, Ewen Cameron, the man who later became her husband. They were bound for eastern Montana to hunt big game along the Yellowstone River, only 13 years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The next fall the Camerons returned to England, packed up, and moved to Montana, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Milne deploys wonderful imagery, gleaned from Cameron’s diaries and letters and augmented by the author’s own skillful language use. The biography reflects the beauty of Eastern Montana without glazing over the harsh conditions of that region in the early 1900s.
I am somewhat familiar with Cameron’s work but had no sense of the woman herself. What a character! The spunky Brit was incredibly hard working when husband and relatives weren’t. She kept the ranch together, tended the house and vegetable gardens, and at the same time emerged as one of the most prolific and talented photographers of her generation.
No wonder she was lauded by a contemporary as “one of the great wonders of Montana.”
Using Cameron’s diaries, source material and her own deep understanding of the area and its people, the author has crafted a magnificent biographical work, which should appeal to readers of all ages.
Milne, a farmer living in the Helena area who also teaches writing and literature at Carroll College, is a graduate of the school of journalism at the University of Montana in Missoula. Growing up in eastern Montana near the Camerons’ homestead gives her a perspective few can match. Find the book at bookstores or order online.
Learn more about the frontier photographer at Evelyn Cameron Heritage in Terry, MT.
– LK Willis