The ABCs of Katherine Anne Porter: I is for…


Katherine Anne Porter’s image is striking and instantly recognizable. She was a young beauty with dark brown that was transformed stark white due the stress and treatment of Spanish Influenza in 1918. Her hair had been white for so long, she was sometimes mistaken for a blonde in black and white photographs. Even the postage stamp that was created in her honor in 2006 originally portrayed Porter as a blonde as a result of using black and white photos as reference.

As a well-known author, Porter tended to be very formal with her appearance with strong ideas about she looked and should be portrayed. She felt pictures of her, especially on book jackets or in newspapers, needed to be dignified to match her serious dedication to writing. She is often photographed professionally to show her unsmiling with her preferred ¾ profile. Porter felt that portrait style was more distinguished and flattering to her face shape. When not being photographed for media reasons, Porter is quick to smile, showing the still elegant but much more relaxed and private version of herself.

Porter was also close friends with photographer George Platt Lynes (1907-1955), who photographed Porter on many occasions. She was often posed in evening gowns with soft lighting, with the effect of creating an aura of old Hollywood glamour to Porter’s beauty.

You can see digitized photos of Katherine Anne Porter through Special Collection’s Digital Repository or visit the Maryland Room in-person. Browse the finding aid for the Katherine Anne Porter papers to learn more!

Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.

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