Photographing Conway: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

To preserve the past, something must be kept and passed on to future generations. Letters, newspaper clippings and other documents tell us part of the story. Items that were used by previous generations also have a story to tell. And then there is the history that is preserved through a photograph.

Sam Fausett, “Conway’s photographer,” captured the people and places of the area for over 30 years. The lives of many Faulkner County families were documented through his portraits which hung on the walls or were placed in family albums. He photographed births, weddings, anniversaries and even deaths with his camera.

Fausett was the photographer who took pictures for the school and college yearbooks. He also photographed commercial developments, parades, beauty pageants, county fairs and our favorite pets. He even took some of the pictures that were used in criminal cases.

Born in Grant County, Arkansas, Fausett was a graduate of the Winona School of Photography in Indiana. He was the first Master of Photography in the state of Arkansas. When he came to Conway in 1941, he had been a photographer for 13 years, working with his brother, H.G. Fausett, at Fausett-Hogue Studio on Main Street in Little Rock.

Fausett-Hogue bought out Barnes-Echlin Photography in 1940. Barnes-Echlin had operated in Conway for 32 years and had taken the pictures for every Hendrix yearbook ever published. It also took the pictures for the Arkansas State Teachers College until 1940. When Creed Echlin sold his business to Fausett-Hogue, he moved to Little Rock to work in the Fausett-Hogue Studio in Little Rock.

Sam Fausett bought the Conway studio from his brother in 1941. He had his wife, Alice, moved to Conway to run the business. They lived at 335 Western Avenue. Alice helped her husband in the studio, scheduling the photography appointments and maintaining the props and settings that were used.

During the 1940s, Fausett became a leader in the photography industry. He was instrumental in starting the Arkansas Professional Photographers Association, serving as its president and director. He represented Arkansas on the council of the National Photographers Association. He also served as the first president of the Southwest Photographers Association. He taught several apprentices, including one who became the youngest Master of Photography in the history of the degree at the age of 28.

The studio was located in the Bahner Building at the corner of Front and Oak for seven years until Fausett built a new “ultra-modern” studio at 829 Railroad Avenue in 1948. This was in a former Westmoreland Furniture warehouse located next to Arkansas Louisiana Gas and Southwestern Bell Telephone. The street was renamed Parkway in 1950.

Five hundred people attended the grand opening of the new two-story studio. On the first floor were the reception room, the main camera room, a nursery for portraits of children, the art room and the powder rooms. There were also offices. Finishing rooms for Kodak film and portraits were located on the second floor.

The studio had a Carrera construction glass front in two shades of green and a large green neon sign. Woodwork in studio was of Oregon pine. The building had a combination winter and summer air conditioning system which kept both photographer and subject comfortable.

Although he never had any children of his own, Fausett loved children and it showed in his photographs. My first formal portrait, like many other Conway children, was done by Sam Fausett. He was able to relate to children, often calming a screaming child so he could capture that perfect picture.

Fausett was said to be a perfectionist, often recalling a customer back if he was not pleased with his first attempt. A master at well-placed lighting, he always wanted the personality of his subjects to show through clearly.

Fausett’s studio remained on Parkway until 1970 when he moved it to 1129 Harkrider Street. A year or so later, he sold the studio to Gary Scroggin. He passed away in May, 1979. The Faulkner County Museum today houses a Fausett Studio Photograph Collection which includes over 50,000 images and negatives. UCA Archives also has a Sam Fausett Manuscript and Photograph Collection.

In recent years, cameras have become easier to use and most of us now have cameras on our cell phones. Capturing the present has never been easier but there is still something special about getting a professional photographer to document those special moments in our lives.

Some of the information used in the column came from Lynita Langley-Ware of the Faulkner County History Museum and the UCA Archives.

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