Mermaid Study : Ki-lo-des-ka

Mermaid Study : Ki-lo-des-ka

The subject of this photograph, a person shown underwater, was something rarely if ever photographed, at least successfully, from this time period. Most likely taken with a hand-camera, the swimmer was Katharine “Kitty” Gulick, (1895-1968) (1.) a Wohelo girls summer camper and youngest daughter of photographer and Wohelo founder Charlotte Vetter Gulick. (1865-1928)

Founded by Gulick and husband Luther Halsey Gulick (1865-1918) in 1907 and still in operation by family members today, (2014) the Wohelo camp is located on the shores of Sebago Lake in Raymond, Maine. Wohelo was an incubator for the Camp Fire Girls movement, the first nonsectarian, multicultural organization for girls in America founded by the Gulicks in 1910 as a companion to the Boy Scouts of America. Officially incorporated in 1912, the same year Girls Scouts of America was founded, the organization is still active today as Camp Fire. Wohelo campers from this very early time period were known as “maidens”, with each having their own symbolic Indian names. Photographed perhaps as early as 1911 as she appears to be 16-18 years old in these photographs,  (2.) “Kitty” Gulick was known to be the strongest swimmer in camp; appropriately known to her fellow campers as Ki-lo-des-ka, or “Water-bird.”

Eight photographs of Ki-lo-des-ka appeared along with the article:  “The Mermaid: A Series of Photographs by Mrs. Luther Halsey Gulick” in the August, 1914 issue of Everybody’s Magazine.

No mere record or technical exercise recording someone photographically in the act of swimming, floating or posing underwater, these ethereal and artistic photographs are remarkable in the opinion of this reviewer and that of the Everybody’s article in they “are a suggestive interpretation of the first law of the Camp-Fire, “Seek beauty“.

Illustrated: full-page halftone, one of 8: Everybody’s Magazine: Vol. 31, #2: August, 1914: p. 231

note: Several of the photos appearing in the Everybody’s article were flipped from their original orientation when photographed by Charlotte Gulick. This particular study is one example. Gulick photographed it on the horizontal, with “Kitty” belly down underwater and facing right.

1. Katherine “Kitty” Gulick Curtis: March 2, 1895 – Dec. 17, 1968.
2. email correspondence: Sept., 2014 conversation with Charlotte Vetter Gulick’s surviving granddaughter. 

Mermaid Study : Ki-lo-des-ka

Image Dimensions7.1 x 9.2 cm corner glued

Support Dimensions16.7 x 22.7 cm gray art paper (laid)