Our Neighbors – Wanda Moore Nealy
During the last couple of weeks I have been reminded of love and loss. Because of the loss of a dear soul it made me think a bit about memories and how so many of them are dependent on photos. In today’s world, there are more photos taken in a single day than were taken in the history of photography up until the digital age. Pretty amazing although there is a lot to be said for a time when photos were really something special.
Several years ago I had the privilege of assisting one of our neighbors with a photo shoot of the folks at the Grand Bay senior Center. We called it “Senior Picture” day and the really interesting part of it was some of those seniors actually had their original Senior pictures taken by the same photographer, Wanda Moore Nealy. During this photo shoot, I learned so much more about photography. Simple things like angles, lighting and camera settings are the basics but learning how to get a subject to pose just right, tilting their heads a bit to eliminate glare in their glasses, capturing their eyes and getting them to smile just right. Wanda certainly is a pro and I loved learning from her.
In preparation for this article, I also had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours in Wanda’s home and studio, talking about her life experiences and a bit more about photography.
Wanda was born in Kentucky in 1927. She was one of 8 children 5 girls and three boys. She moved to Grand Bay at an early age and her father was one of the original land auctioneers that assisted in the subdivision of property in what has become Grand Bay.
Wanda went to school in Grand Bay and Indiana. One of the skills she learned in Indiana was typing. Something that was not taught in our local schools at that time. When she returned to Grand Bay she actually assisted Mr. Breitling with the needed typing in the school, something that made Wanda decide that office work was really not what she wanted to do.
Her sister Geraldine Moore decided that she had a better idea and the two went off to Missouri for telegraphy school. At 17 years old Wanda was working as an apprentice in Colorado and shortly thereafter was actually running a train depot much like the one we used to have here in town. Wanda says “can you imagine a 17 year old actually running a train depot?” She was In charge of tracks and times and basically coordinating the rail service, preventing collisions and keeping the trains running on time. A huge amount of responsibility.
Wanda and her sister also traveled to New York City where they became dance instructors and Wanda continued teaching dance for many years.
One day she answered a want ad for a photo router. She had no photo experience, but this started her down the path of a career that lasted over 50 years and continues today. Wanda ended up back in Grand Bay during the late 50’s and became the class photographer in 1961 and continued until 1980. If you went to school in Grand Bay during those years Wanda Took your picture. She continued as a professional photographer in her own studio and on location shooting weddings and events until 2009.
Wanda has an extensive collection of photos that she took over the course of over 50 years and still offers reprints. If you or a family member was photographed by Wanda and you are interested in a print please contact Wanda at 865-6228 or call her on her cell at 422-2474.
Wanda’s life and story is far too interesting to capture in this brief article but I hope to continue her story in greater detail online in the near future. Wanda certainly is fine friend and neighbor and am privileged to know her.