Born in Mississippi’s capital city Jackson in 1909, Eudora Welty grew up with Walter Andrews and Edward Jefferson, her younger brothers. Her mother Mary Chestina was a teacher at a school and she became a catalyst for Eudora’s fondness towards reading. On the other hand, her father Christian Webb Welty was an insurance executive and inspired Eudora Welty to love mechanical objects.
From 1925 until 1927, she went to the Mississippi State College for Women and later relocated to University of Wisconsin to finish learning English Literature. At Columbia University, she, on the advice of her father, studied advertising. At the time of her graduation there was Great Depression and as a result employment rates heavily decreased in New York. In 1931, she went back to Jackson and found her father sick from leukemia and he eventually died. Then she started working in a radio station and meanwhile she also wrote for Commercial Appeal.
Four years later, she was a publicity mediator at the Works Progress Administration and gathered stories, took interviews as well as photographed Mississippi’s everyday life. She took pictures of individuals coming from all socio-economic classes. Her photographs represent the poverty in rural areas of Mississippi and the impact of the painstaking economic depression. A 1971 photographic book – One Time, One Place was a collection of pictures shot by Welty in the 1930s. She travelled around the state’s eighty-two counties for her project. Along with images, she also wrote about her journey. 99 photos are composed in the book under four categories, Saturday, Portraits, Sunday, and Workday.
Another photo-book titled Eudora Welty Photographs published in 1989, gives an insight into the world of Welty’s work of art and records her extraordinary and distinctive vision. Welty hence had the power to express herself clearly since she possessed the two ultimate talents that are needed to reflect one’s thoughts, ideas and observations – writing and photography. Among the thousands of photographs taken by Welty, this book brought together 250 images.
All her photos decipher her empathetic, artistic, and explorative sensibilities. At first, she limited herself to the area where she was born but gradually she became adventurous enough to try out new places for photography, such as Charleston, Yaddo, New York and New Orleans and then England and Ireland.
Moreover, her photography has served as a foundation for many short stories that she wrote, like Why I Live at the PO. This was referenced by a photo of a woman ironing at the back side of a post office.
Eudora Welty won several award including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Medal of Freedom and O. Henry Awards. She also won the Pulitzer Prize.
In One Writer’s Beginning, a memoir by Welty which was published in 1984, she has explained that a photograph arrests a moment from passing away. It is very important to click at the right time, and Welty agreed that she had the quality of capturing time at a right instant. She accepted that feelings are dependent on gestures and that she had to be prepared to recognize this and click. However, Welty also asserted that some things can only be affectively expressed through words and this is why writing remained with her forever.