Laura Wilson (photographer)

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Laura Wilson
Wilson at the 2015 Texas Book Festival
Wilson at the 2015 Texas Book Festival
BornLaura Cunningham
1939 (age 78–79)
Years active1980–present
Robert Wilson
(m. 1963; died 2017)
ChildrenAndrew Wilson
Owen Wilson
Luke Wilson

Laura Cunningham Wilson (born 1939) is an American photographer.[2] Her photographs have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, Wallpaper, Washington Post Magazine,[3] and London's Sunday Times Magazine.[2] She has completed five books of photography and text: Watt Matthews of Lambshead (1989), Hutterites of Montana (2000), Avedon at Work: In the American West (2003), Grit and Glory: Six-Man Football (2003) and That Day: Pictures in the American West (2015).[2]

She is the mother of actors Owen Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Luke Wilson.[2]

Life and work[edit]

Wilson was born Laura Cunningham and raised in Massachusetts, the daughter of Rosemary (née White) and Edward J. Cunningham.[4] She majored in art at Connecticut College, graduating in 1961.[5]

Wilson got her start as a photographer by taking photos of her three young sons: "I had majored in painting in college. But with three little boys underfoot, I didn't have time to lift a paintbrush. Then a friend gave me a camera. I realized at once that the boys were perfect subjects."[6]

Wilson's professional career was launched when Richard Avedon hired her to assist with his book In the American West, which was commissioned by the Amon Carter Museum.[7] Wilson traveled with Avedon for six years, helping him find subjects to photograph. Wilson also wrote the text for In the American West.[8][9]

Wilson's work with Avedon helped her become deeply familiar with the West and provided inspiration for her later projects.[9] In a January 2018 interview she described her artistic attraction to isolated groups of people, saying, "I am drawn to people who live in an enclosed world-those people who live in isolated communities, whether by circumstance or accomplishment; I was curious about these groups and wanted to know more . . . .my wish, as Eudora Welty wrote, 'would be not to point the finger in judgement but to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people.'"[9]

Wilson has completed five books of photography and text:

Watt Matthews of Lambshead (1989) is a photographic essay about one of the last Texas cattlemen. Matthews lived his entire life on the famous Lambshead Ranch, located west of Fort Worth.[8] In Matthews' obituary, The New York Times wrote that the book has become "a classic of Texas history."[10] The book was described by Texas State Historical Association Director Ron Tyler as "an unusual combination of subject and author-artist."[8]

Hutterites of Montana (2000) documents the Hutterite communities of the American west.[11] Wilson's interest in the Hutterites began during her work with Avedon: "Still vivid in my mind is my first glimpse of the Hutterites. I was working for Richard Avedon and we were driving in Montana at dusk. There was a lovely pink sunset. We saw in the distance an open meadow of wheat, figures walking. The girls were in long, colorful dresses, like Christian LaCroix, the boys in white shirts and black pants."[12] Hutterite communities generally do not allow photography, but Wilson visited Montana Hutterite communities many times and eventually received permission to take photos.[12]

Avedon at Work: In the American West (2003) is a portrait of photographer Richard Avedon that shows Avedon's creative process, working methods, and range of subjects as he worked to complete In the American West.[13] Wilson documented Avedon's work throughout the six years they spent working on the project, and the book describes their work on the project.[7]

Grit and Glory: Six-Man Football (2003) documents six-man football and its culture in small Texas towns.[14]

That Day: Pictures in the American West (2015) includes photographs in the American west accompanied by Wilson's observations from the time each photograph was taken. Larry McMurtry wrote, "Laura Wilson has an ever-searching eye for the bleak beauty of the west- and for it's bleak reality too. That Day is a remarkable book."[15] Andrew R. Graybill, Director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, noted that the book "combines her talents for capturing the West's enduring and romantic myths, from legendary cattle ranches to dramatic panoramic vistas, as well as its bleak realities, whether undocumented migrants crossing the Rio Grande or life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation."[16]

Wilson has lectured on photography at Harvard University, the International Center of Photography in New York City, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art[17] and the University of Texas at Austin.[18]

She is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters[19] and the Philosophical Society of Texas.[20] She serves on the board of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Wilson lives in Dallas, Texas and is the mother of actors Andrew, Owen, and Luke, and grandparent to five[1] grandchildren through Andrew and Owen.[4] She was married to director Robert A. Wilson, until his death of Alzheimer's disease on May 5, 2017.[22]


  • Watt Matthews of Lambshead. Texas State Historical Association, 1989. ISBN 0876110901.
  • Hutterites of Montana. Yale University Press, 2000. ISBN 0300083394.
  • Avedon at Work: In the American West. University of Texas Press, 2003. ISBN 0292701934.
  • Grit and Glory: Six-Man Football. Bright Sky Press, 2003. ISBN 1931721289.
  • That Day: Pictures in the American West. Yale University Press, 2015. ISBN 9780300215397.



  1. ^ a b "Robert Andrew Wilson: 1941-2017", The Dallas Morning News. 9 May 2017. Retrieved on 1 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Wilson, Laura. "Laura Willson Biography". Laura Wilson Photography. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  3. ^ "About Laura Wilson", within "November architecture events", Dallas Architecture Forum, November 9, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "At 93, Rosemary Cunningham, Norwell resident", Boston Herald, July 24, 2002, (Subscription required (help))
  5. ^
  6. ^ Dingus, Anne (May 1996). ""Her Three Sons"". Texas Monthly.
  7. ^ a b Wilson, Laura (2003). Avedon at Work: In the American West (1st ed.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. p. 14.
  8. ^ a b c Wilson, Laura (1989). ""knowledge of life hurrying past"" (Fall). Riding Line: The Newsletter of the Texas State Historical Association.
  9. ^ a b c "Laura Wilson: That Day" (January/February). Booth Bulletin: Publication of Booth Western Art Museum". 2018.
  10. ^ Thomas, Robert McG. Jr. (April 21, 1997), "Watkins Matthews, Rancher From Bygone Era, Dies at 98", The New York Times.
  11. ^ Koop, P. A. (March 22, 2001), "Hutterites of Montana. (Book Reviews)", Utopian Studies, (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ a b "Hutterites of Montana: Photographs by Laura Wilson from her book Hutterites of Montana". (9). 1814 Magazine. 2015.
  13. ^ "Saving Face: Laura Wilson's new book, 'Avedon at Work'", Variety, March 28, 2008, (Subscription required (help)).
  14. ^ a b Exhibition notice for Grit and Glory, Southern Methodist University. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  15. ^ Wilson, Laura (2015). That Day: Pictures in the American West. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300215398.
  16. ^ Graybill, Andrew (Fall 2015). "News from Co-Director Andrew R. Graybill". The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies (Volume 16, No. 2).
  17. ^ "From the archives: Richard Avedon Artist Talk". Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  18. ^ "'Laura Wilson in the American West: A Conversation with Richard Avedon' A free, public event, Jessen Auditorium, Wednesday, Nov. 19". Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  19. ^ Newsletter, February 2005 Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine., Texas Institute of Letters Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "The Clements Center's Advisors", 2010–2011 report, William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, p.36. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  22. ^ "Father of Hollywood's Wilson brothers dies; Robert Wilson was public TV innovator". star-telegram. Retrieved 2018-04-04.
  23. ^ "Deromanticizing the West: The Portraits of Richard Avedon", USA Today, December 1, 2005, (Subscription required (help)).
  24. ^ Granberry, Michael (February 1, 2011), "Not to be left out, galleries and museums offer their own rare "art" of Super Bowl", The Dallas Morning News.
  25. ^ "That Day: Laura Wilson | Amon Carter Museum of American Art". Retrieved 2016-03-10.
  26. ^ "Laura Wilson: That Day | Booth Western Art Museum". Retrieved 2018-01-22.

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