Marion Viola Stark Gaines

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Marion Viola Gaines (Stark)

Birthplace: Mississippi, United States
Death: August 11, 1942 (92)
Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi, United States
Place of Burial: Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Peter Stark and Sarah Bradford Stark
Wife of Capt. Abner Strother Gaines (CSA)
Mother of George Stark Gaines; Marion Viola Gaines and Edmund Pendleton Gaines

Occupation: Photographer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Marion Viola Stark Gaines

Marion Viola Stark Gaines, Mississippi’s earliest known published woman photographer, was born in Columbus on 10 August 1850 to Peter Stark and Sarah Bradford Short Stark. Shortly thereafter, the Starks moved to Mobile, Alabama, where her father worked as a cotton merchant. On 13 February 1879 Marion married Capt. Abner Strother Gaines and moved to Peachwood, his family’s plantation and nursery at State Line in Wayne County, Mississippi, where their four children were born.

While at Peachwood in the 1890s and early 1900s Gaines experimented with photography and was influenced by pictorialism, a cultural and artistic movement that regarded photographs as true art and not simply records of reality. Gaines’s photographs depict floral themes and life in her home and community. Her still lifes of native flowers and plants include magnolias and camellias, pinecones and peaches, as well as some exotic horticultural varieties. Her images of family, neighbors, and places—her daughter, Viola, reading a book in a vine-covered doorway; her son, Edmund, holding a dead rabbit and a gun after a hunting trip; African Americans packing bales of cotton on the porch of a log cabin; a young woman shelling peas; and Choctaw women and girls holding flower chains—provide insight into life in South Mississippi more than a century ago.

Gaines’s photographs were published in various ladies’ and photography magazines. In 1900 she won an award in portraiture from the Association Camera Club in Mobile for a picture of her daughter. In June 1901 Photo-Eye published “By the West Window,” in which Gaines discussed the difficulties and challenges of photographing flowers. The same month Ladies’ Home Journal showcased one of her pictures of Peachwood Plantation in a competition featuring images of log cabins. Gaines’s interest in photography diminished after the death of her husband in 1905. Shortly thereafter, she moved back to Mobile, where she lived until her death on 11 August 1942.

More than half a century after her death, the work of this pioneering photographer began attracting academic and public interest. In 1999 both the Old Capitol Museum and the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson mounted exhibitions featuring Gaines’s photographs, and in 2003 the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library showed her artwork and photography. The Mississippi Digital Library provides a portal for researching and exploring images from the Marion Stark Gaines Photography Collection at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library.


Marion Stark Gaines was one of the earliest known published woman photographers of Mississippi and the grandmother of former library director Chebie Bateman. Gaines experimented with photography while living in State Line, Mississippi in the 1890s and early 1900s. Her work captured not only family life, but also social customs and race relations in the rural South. -

She was one of the earliest women photographers in Alabama and Mississippi whose work was published, with her photos appearing in such magazines as the LADIES HOME JOURNAL and PHOTO ERA.

Daughter of Peter Stark and his wife, Sarah Bradford (Short) Stark.

Wife of Abner Strother Gaines, the son of Col. George Strother Gaines and Ann Lawrence (Gaines) Gaines of Gaineswood, Demopolis.

Mother of:

 George Stark Gaines b: 13 DEC 1879 in Mobile, Alabama, died 15 JAN 1962 in Columbus, Lowndes Co., Mississippi. Married 1st Mary Isbell Pillans, married 2nd Ann Stephenson.    Abner Strother Gaines b: 1883 in Mobile County, Alabama, died an infant.
Marion Viola Gaines b: 14 JUL 1885 in Mobile County, Alabama, never married.
Dr. Edmund Pendleton Gaines b: 13 SEP 1889 in Mobile County, Alabama, died 24 Dec 1949, never married. * Updated from [ Find A Grave Memorial] via  [Capt. Abner Strother Gaines (CSA) Capt Abner Strother Gaines] by [ SmartCopy]: ''Apr 24 2015, 0:57:48 UTC''
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Marion Viola Stark Gaines's Timeline

August 10, 1850
Mississippi, United States
December 31, 1879
July 14, 1885
Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama, United States
September 13, 1889
August 11, 1942
Age 92
Columbus, Lowndes County, Mississippi, United States
Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama, United States