Benjamin Gifford

Benjamin A. Gifford (1859-1936) was born in DuPage County, Illinois. After briefly attending Kansas Normal College, Benjamin worked for two years as an apprentice in a Ft. Scott, Kansas, photo gallery. He finished his apprenticeship in Sedalia, Missouri, under William LaTour, and then returned to Fort Scott to become a partner in a photo studio. Benjamin married Myrtle Peck in 1884; he and his wife moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1888 and by 1891 had started a photo studio across the street from the Hotel Portland. He was the first photographer in Portland to use electric lights for making enlargements.

About 1895 Benjamin moved to The Dalles and operated a studio there for several years, though he maintained strong ties to the Portland area. Gifford returned to Portland in 1910. His son Ralph I. Gifford took over operation of the studio around 1920. After his first wife died in 1919, Benjamin married Rachel Morgan, who had worked in his photography studio for several years. They moved to Clark County, Washington, soon after turning over the photography business to Ralph and settled in a home they called “Wa-ne-Ka,” named after his famous photograph, “Sunset on the Columbia.” Benjamin died on March 5, 1936.

Benjamin was well-known for his images of Native Americans, scenic views of the Columbia River and the Columbia River Highway, and views of central Oregon and Portland areas. He published Art Work of Oregon (1900), Art Work of the State of Oregon (1909), Art Work of Portland, Mt. Hood and the Columbia River (1912), and a view book titled Snap Shots on the Columbia (1902). In addition his work appeared in many promotional booklets issued by railroads, particularly the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company.

Biography courtesy the NWDA Guide to the Benjamin A. Gifford Photographs.