The Picture Man


Idalia Canter, illustrator

An Appalachian farm girl is intrigued by a picture man’s offer to photograph her. Gentle brown-toned watercolors hint of old photographs while poetic text leads readers from the picture man’s arrival to the taking of the photograph.

The story, which culminates with the photo that inspired it, calls attention to the picture men, who traveled—by foot, horseback, or car—within their communities to photograph the people. These images, which have graced mantels and family albums, offer honest records of people as they lived and as they wanted to be seen.

Idalia Canter’s sepia watercolors with delicate tinting suggest the look of old hand-tinted photographs.

The illustrated story invites young readers into this bygone era, while endnotes with representative photographs of W.R. Trivett, Appalachian picture man, will spark the curiosity of adults and leave them reaching for their own family photographs. A book for all ages, ideal for sharing across generations.


Whenever I think of the work of Julia Taylor Ebel, I think of the “good, the true, and the beautiful.” Her prose and poems about life in the mountains evoke a not too distant past where there was still time to appreciate the easy hospitality of neighbors, the ageless rhythms of life tied to working the land, and of course, a good story. The world that Julia preserves in The Picture Man is rapidly vanishing, but her word-images capture the very best of its essence. I commend her books to readers of all ages. They are treasures.

—Ralph E. Lentz II, Instructor of History, Appalachian State University
Author of W. R. Trivett, Appalachian Pictureman

The Picture Man is a striking historical snapshot. Ebel’s lyrical storytelling and Canter’s gentle illustrations beautifully capture a moment in time. And the surprise ending is priceless.

—Joyce Moyer Hostetter, Author of Blue and Comfort

In short, evocative sentences, Julia Ebel weaves a story around a photograph taken in the high country of NC in the 1940s. Reminiscent of Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains, The Picture Man describes a pastoral memory and recalls a simpler time, not just historically, but in the way that childhood recollections are languid and uncomplicated. Muted but detailed illustrations add just the right amount of visual interest, like the gauzy veil of a sepia print.

—Trudy Moss, NCSLMA Past President, Media Coordinator at Watauga High School

Julia Taylor Ebel delights the reader with this story of a young farm girl’s encounter with photography. Beautifully written and illustrated, The Picture Man includes vintage photographs and a historical account of the camera and the men who captured enduring images to be enjoyed by future generations. A concluding note on how to make a shoebox camera teaches novice photographers the technique used by picture men of old.

—Karen Cecil Smith, author of Orlean Puckett: The Life of a Mountain Midwife; and An Old Salem Christmas 1840

Order from the author.

ISBN: 978-1-933251-63-9, Hardcover; 2009; $16.95
Published by Parkway Publishers, Inc.

Study Guide

Available in Microsoft Word. Click here to download a copy.