Anne Shiras was both a pioneer practitioner in the field of medical photography and a key officer in our organization from the founding era through the first two decades.
Anne lived and worked in the Pittsburgh area of Western Pennsylvania for her entire 91 years, July 19, 1903 to July 30, 1994.
She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1925 and from the Yale School of Drama in 1927. Her ancestors (both sides) were prominent pioneer families in the Pittsburgh area. Charles Shiras collaborated with Stephen C. Foster, writing the words to several of his songs. Her grandfather, George Shiras Jr. was a justice of the US Supreme Court starting in 1892 under President Benjamin Harrison. The family included attorneys, and publishers among its ranks.
It was during The Great Depression that Anne entered the new specialty of medical photography and joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She served at Magee Hospital and was privileged to study in the department of Louis Schmidt, at the time, the leading figure in our field.
Anne was the second Shiras to practice professional photography, following her uncle, George Shiras III. George Shiras was a congressman in the fifty-eighth congress and also active in biological research and photography.
The National Geographic described him as 'the father of wildlife photography' for his work with camera traps and flash photography - capturing animals at night.
Anne maintained her interest in the performing arts, editing and publishing the work of Maxwell Foster, a Shakespearean scholar. Shiras was so convinced that Foster's interpretation was important that she paid to have it published and be available for future study.
Anne’s contribution to our organization was immense. Not only was she a director, she helped keep the organization thriving. Anne kept minutes of all the meetings, and transactions, rich in many details that were later so valuable when 'historical' summaries of the start-up were needed, like the photographer who sold a pint of blood to earn the travel expenses to the founding BPA meeting in Connecticut.
H. Lou Gibson, veteran Kodak science photographer/author, said it was impossible to think of the early BPA without Anne coming to mind. Anne kept active attending annual meetings even after retirement. She presented the organization a very significant block of stock, in the then-trendy Polaroid Corporation.
Her contributions continued, lifelong, and the Pioneer Members Lecture is justly named in her honor.
An interview with Anne Shiras, FBPA
The January 1995 issue of the Journal of Biological Photography featured An interview with Anne Shiras, FBPA in which Barbara Katzenberg, FBPA transcribes an inteview with Anne in 1987. Anne requested that it not be published until after her death.
Anne Shiras served as secretary of the BPA from 1932 to 1949 and also served on the Board of Directors and the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Photography. She also assisted in the planning of annual meetings and contributed generously to the financial support of the organization.
In most instances her gifts were anonymous, two of which should now be mentioned; she underwrote the publication of the 50-year history authored by Lou Gibson and financed the Pioneer Lecture Series. Her dedication and personal devotion to the development and welfare of the BPA was exemplary.