Picturing Fairfield: The Photographs of Mabel Osgood Wright


Mabel Osgood Wright (1859-1934) always preferred the country to the city. As a child growing up in New York City, Wright savored the summers she spent at Mosswood, her family’s retreat in rural Fairfield, and made it her permanent home in 1884 after she married. Living at a time when the United States was rapidly shifting from an agrarian to an industrial and urban country, Wright became an avid conservationist, making the preservation of New England’s wildlife and countryside her life’s work. From her home in Fairfield, Wright wrote popular field guides on local wildlife, helped establish the Connecticut Audubon Society, and founded Birdcraft Sanctuary as a refuge for birds in Fairfield.

From early on, photography was instrumental to Wright’s conservationist efforts, a means to document the disappearing landscape around her. Wright often turned her camera toward Fairfield, which at the turn of the twentieth century was just beginning to move away from its rural past and feel the effects of city life. At times nostalgic and sentimental, Wright’s photographs focus on Fairfield’s homes, gardens, people, and the local countryside and present Fairfield as a traditional New England town. At a time when many writers and thinkers were increasingly worried that the nation was losing its “rural virtue” to the growth of the city, Wright’s photographs portray Fairfield as an ideal suburb, an antidote to what she viewed as the “whirpool” of city life. 


This exhibition was on view at the Fairfield Museum in 2014.