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Historical Photos

Considered one of the foremost portrait photographers of his time, W. S. (Dad) Lively (1855-1944) received world-wide acclaim for not only founding the famous Southern School of Photography here in McMinnville, but also for his publications on lighting techniques and darkroom processing.  Perhaps Dad's greatest fame came with his creation of what was the world's largest camera that produced life size photographs.  Only three of these life-size photographs remain.  To know him was to love him for his personal charm and ability as a teacher.  His untiring instructions laid the foundation for the leading photographers of today."  Quote from former student of W. S. Lively published in The Southeastern Photo News in June 1936

The Southern School of Photography

The old three story gothic structure in McMinnville which originally was Cumberland Female Academy, stretching across the hill at the North end of College Street and almost the entire length of Donnell Street in 1904 became the home and symbol of W. S. Lively's world renowned Southern School of Photography. 


An Early Class at the School




Established at a time when photography was becoming an acceptable profession for women, the school actively sought female students and records indicate that about fifty percent of the students were women.  There are known examples of men and women meeting and the school, marring and  operating a studio together for the rest of their lives.

The Southern School of Photography, which existed for 25 years, emerged as an extraordinary educational endeavor due to the enormous photographic talents and vibrant personality of its founder W. S. Lively.  On January 4, 1928, the school was destroyed by fire, started from an overheated coal stove

William Spencer Lively was born in McMinnville on November 19, 1855. He grew up in the white frame Lively home on East Main Street just west of the railroad.  His father, J.P. Lively, was a proprietor of a flourishing undertaking and furniture business located halfway between the Lively house and the Courthouse Square.    The LIVELY inscription still exists on the front of the building today. 

One of his earliest memories was  visiting a photographic studio darkroom with his grandmother.  As a teenager he set up a tent studio in the front yard of the Lively home and made tintypes of passersby every Saturday morning.  Picture taking became an obsession with young Lively. It became his career by the age of twenty.  He married Lela Jones and had three children, Lee, Nancy and Joe. All three children became professional photographers. Dad also took over management of the Lively furniture store and opened a photographic studio on the top floor of the furniture store.  In 1900, he help found the regional photographic association, know as the Kentucky-Tennessee Association.  Lively became known as a genius in the photographic world and was well respected by all in the industry




"Dad" Lively Receives a loving cup at the reunion of students

Glass Latern Slide advertisment shown in Movie Theatre

Anthia Brady's Studio in So. Pittsburgh Tennessee circi 1890

Home of Phillip Hughes, born in Warren County in 1809

Smartt Brothers at the county fair in the 1920's



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  Our reproduction department is able to make digital files (jpgs, tifs, and most other formats) from large format film and glass negatives.  We are also able to capture still images from 8MM, Super 8MM and 16MM movie film.  Contact us about special projects   bhbphotos@blomand.net