Alvin Langdon Coburn
Alvin Langdon Coburn British and American, b. United States, 1882-1966
Born in Boston and later naturalized a British citizen, Alvin Langdon Coburn received his first camera at age eight. Ten years later, encouraged by his cousin -- the idiosyncratic, yet highly talented photographer F. Holland Day-Coburn showed his work in a major London exhibition. In 1902-3 he was a founding member of the Photo-Secession and the Linked Ring, two of the most important photographic organizations of their time. His work in the medium continued at a high level for the next quarter century.
Coburn was influenced not only by Day, but also by painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler, the impressionists, and Japanese woodblock prints, championed by his teacher Arthur Wesley Dow and Boston scholar Ernest Fenellosa. His artistic background allowed him to accept modernism as well. Although a founding member of the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916 with Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence H. White, the following year Coburn made some of the first abstract photographs as a part of the vorticist movement, through which he became associated with Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound.
Coburn produced a wide range of work, both in subject and style. Technically proficient, he excelled at the gravure process, producing large editions of original prints for portfolios and books. Among his collaborators were Henry James and H. G. Wells. Although Coburn abandoned photography from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, his work continued to be influential, and he took up the medium again near the end of his life. T.W.F.
Note: Coburn emigrated to the United Kingdom in 1912 and became a naturalized British citizen in 1932. Coburn was a founding member of the Photo Secession, New York City, in 1902, and of the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916. Coburn was associated with the Linked Ring in 1903, and the Royal Photographic Society in the United Kingdom. American photographer, became a naturalized British citizen. -Barbara Tannenbaum
George Bernard Shaw
Famed playwright, novelist, and critic George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin and moved to England in 1876. He first took up photography in 1898, pursuing it with enthusiasm for the rest of his life. His earliest images, taken with a Kodak box camera, were casual shots of people, places, and pets, pictures characteristic of many amateur photographers. He soon moved on to a Sanderson field camera and over the years experimented with a variety of cameras and lenses.
During the first decade of the 20th century, Shaw was especially active in the field of photog-raphy, producing platinum prints and writing essays in support of the medium as an art form. Most of these articles originally appeared in Amateur Photographer magazine between 1901-9. They were often reprinted in other publications, including Alfred Stieglitz's journal Camera Work. Stieglitz also reproduced one of Shaw's portraits of photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn in the July 1906 issue. Earlier, Shaw had written two short reviews of photographic exhibitions for the World (in 1887 and 1888, when he was the publication's art critic). He also delivered many lectures on photography and became close friends with Coburn and another leading British photographer, Frederick H. Evans.
Over the years Shaw produced thousands of images, most of which were never published or exhibited. Several exceptions include his auto-chromes of the ruins of a 14th-century church in his village of Ayot St. Lawrence, which was in-cluded in a special summer number (Color Pho-tography and Other Recent Developments of the Camera) of the Studio (1908), a group of eight photographs reproduced in the Countryman (April 1937), a collection of more than 30 pic-tures that appeared in F. E. Loewenstein's book Bernard Shaw Through the Camera (1948), and Shaw's views of his village, which he published in a guidebook shortly before his death.
George H. Seeley
George H. Seeley American, 1880-1955
The reclusive photographer George Henry Seeley spent virtually his entire life in his native Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Unlike many of his peers, he sought neither notoriety nor public adulation. His only extended absence was during his enrollment in the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston, where he briefly studied painting and modeling. Returning in 1902, Seeley became supervisor of art in the Stockbridge public schools, and later a correspondent for a regional newspaper, the Springfield Republic. He devoted himself to photography and painting, becoming a notable still-life painter in his later years. He also held a longstanding proprietary role in the local Congregational church and was an authority on birds, maintaining a landing station and recording migratory patterns for the Biological Survey, based in Washington D.C.
As a photographer, Seeley turned down several professional offers that would have required him to move. He had presumably experimented with photography by 1902, when he visited the studio of F. Holland Day, who further encouraged him. The following year he received several substantial awards from Photo-Era magazine. In 1904 his 20 prints shown at the First American Salon in New York drew considerable praise, notably that of Alvin Langdon Coburn, who is believed to have introduced Seeley's work to Alfred Stieglitz. Seeley was a member of both the Photo-Secession and the Salon Club of America. Although shown and published by Stieglitz, he preferred the attitudes and subjects of small-town life over the shifting politics of the world of organized photography. T.W.F.