Marjorie Content (1895–1984) was an American photographer active in modernist social and artistic circles. Her husbands included Harold Loeb, the editor of the avant-garde journal, Broom, and the writer Jean Toomer. Her photographs were rarely published and never exhibited in her lifetime, but have become of interest to collectors and art historians. Her work has been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art and has been the subject of several solo exhibitions.
Marjorie Content was born in 1895, the daughter of wealthy Manhattan stock-broker Harry Content and his wife, Ada Content. She was educated at Miss Finch's School. During these years, she began a lifelong friendship with Alfred Stieglitz, the uncle of a school friend.
In 1914, she left school at age 19 to marry Harry Loeb. Their two children, Jim and Susan Loeb, were born in 1915 and 1916. In 1919, Content became a manager of The Sunrise Turn bookshop, a female-run bookstore devoted to new writing. Loeb's founding of Broom in 1921 also helped deepen Content's connections to the literary and art world as Lola Ridge hosted artists in the Broom's office in the basement of Content's brownstone. Loeb was often away in Europe, and the two divorced in 1921.
Photographic Years 1926-1935
Content began serious photography while married to her second husband, the painter Michael Carr. She used a 3 1⁄4 × 4 1⁄4 inch Graflex, and, after 1932, a 5x7 inch Graflex, as well. Despite reports that Stieglitz taught her developing techniques, some scholars believe it was her friend Consuelo Kanaga, in whose darkroom she sometimes worked.
Her travels in the West and Southwest with painter Gordon Grant influenced her style toward a more formalist aesthetic, and she indulged ethnographic impulses while briefly working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs photographing rural Native American life. In the 1930s she was also close to Georgia O'Keeffe, traveling to the Bermuda with her in 1933 to nurse her through a depression, and driving to New Mexico with her in 1934. Other close friends of this period included Stieglitz, Ridge, Sherwood Anderson, Paul Rosenfeld, and Margaret Naumburg, at whose Walden School both of her children were educated.
In September, 1934, just one day after her divorce from Leon Fleischman was finalized, Content wed Jean Toomer in Taos. One scholar calls her marriage to Toomer "a doomed alliance" and blames it for the end of her years of serious art-making. The two remained married until Toomer's death in 1967. They continued to visit New Mexico together but settled on a farm in Doylestown, PA and were active in reviving the Quaker meeting there.
- James A Michener Art Museum: Bucks County Artists
- Jill Quasha (1994). Marjorie Content: Photographs. New York: Norton.
- Lifson, Ben and Richard Eldridge, "Marjorie Content," Marjorie Content: Photographs, ed. Jill Quasha. New York: Norton 1994. p.36
- Kerman, Cynthia Earl and Richard Eldridge, The Lives of Jean Toomer: A Hunger for Wholeness Louisiana State University Press 1989. p.222.
- Janis, Eugenia Parry, "No One I Know: The Mystery of Marjorie Content, Photographer," Marjorie Content: Photographs, ed. Jill Quasha. New York: Norton 1994. p.54