Maxine Reams; Staff Photographer for Times

Share via

Maxine Reams, the first female staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times, who went on to become chief photographer for the Orange County edition, died Tuesday. She was 79.

Reams, a Tustin resident, died at the Western Medical Center in Santa Ana after a stroke, family members said.

“She was a bold pioneer for the many women photographers who have followed in her footsteps here at The Times. She holds a special place in L.A. Times history,” said Laura Morgan, director of communications for The Times.


Reams worked for The Times for nearly 30 years. She was hired as the newspaper’s first female photographer in January 1943 and was named chief photographer for the Orange County edition in 1970.

In an autobiographical sketch provided by her family, Reams recalled working for a gas company while trying to get a job at a newspaper.

She said she first had to convince a Times manager “that I wasn’t the least bit afraid of ‘those [darkroom] chemicals’ ” in order to be hired as a “photog.”

Reams was born Sept. 8, 1918, in South Dakota and was adopted when she was 3 months old. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1939 from the University of Iowa and studied at the Chouinard Art Institute and UCLA.

She spent most of her career at the Times, but worked at the House of Rothschild, a Los Angeles photography firm, from 1945 to 1952.

Her first camera was an Eastman Kodak Brownie that she received at age 10. She was constantly taking photographs as a girl, said her sister, Geraldine Swanson of Bullhead City, Ariz.


Also contributing to this report was Times staff writer Steve Carney.