Ema Spencer American, 1857-1941
A native of Newark, Ohio, Ema Spencer is perhaps best remembered today for her encouragement of the young Clarence H. White. Nevertheless, she was a talented photographer in her own right, exhibiting nationally and internationally, winning awards in Italy and Germany, and participating in several of the most important exhibitions of her day.
Spencer founded the Newark Camera Club and was a member of the Photo-Secession; her photographs were published in the January 1909 issue of Camera Work. The calm, quiet quality of her work links her not only to White, with whom she studied, but also to Gertrude Käsebier and others whose images often had a domestic focus and informal tone. In addition to her interest in photography, Spencer was a columnist for the Newark Advocate and a trustee of the New York Public Library. T.W.F.
Frank Eugene German, b. United States, 1865-1936
Pictorial photographer Frank Eugene was known for his skillful hand-manipulation of images. Born Frank Eugene Smith in New York City, he attended City College of New York, then studied at the Royal Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Initially trained as a painter, Eugene took up photography in the mid-1880s and by the turn of the century was exhibiting his work widely. In 1899 he took part in exhibitions at the London Salon and at the Camera Club of New York, and the following year was elected to membership in England's Linked Ring. In 1902 Eugene became a founding member of the Photo-Secession and was selected by Alfred Stieglitz to be among the group of American photographers displaying work at the Esposizione Internationale d'Arte Moderna in Turin, Italy. That same year he was also included in the first Photo-Secession exhibition at the National Arts Club in New York. He subsequently participated in numerous photographic salons and shows, including the well-known 1910 exhibition of pictorial photography organized by Stieglitz for the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo. Eugene's work was also featured in several issues of Camera Work between 1904-16 (Stieglitz having earlier reproduced his photographs in Camera Notes).
In 1906 Eugene moved to Germany, where he worked as a painter and continued to take photographs. Known as a "painter-photographer," he often manipulated a photographic image by drawing on the negative or marking it with an etching needle in order to achieve a desired effect in the final picture. In 1913 he was appointed to the world's first chair in pictorial photography at the Royal Academy of Graphic Arts in Leipzig. M.M.
Edward Steichen American, b. Luxembourg, 1879-1973
His long and illustrious career places Edward Steichen among the major figures of 20th-century photography. Born Eduard Jean Steichen in Luxembourg, Steichen moved with his family to the United States in 1881, was naturalized a citizen in 1900, and changed the spelling of his first name in 1918. Educated in Wisconsin, he showed an early interest in art. He studied at the Milwaukee Art Students League and was an apprentice lithographer; later he studied painting at the Académie Julian in Paris.
Steichen took his first photograph in 1896. Early recognition came in the Second Philadelphia Salon of 1899, and he was encouraged by Clarence H. White. Shortly thereafter, while on his way to Europe, he met Alfred Stieglitz, who bought three of his prints. In 1900 he participated in the New School of American Photography exhibition in London. Steichen's first one-person show, which included paintings as well as photographs, was held in Paris in 1902. He helped to found the Photo-Secession and played an important role in the life and design of its galleries, programs, and publications, including the decision to exhibit international works in a variety of media.
Steichen was the commander of aerial photography for the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. After the war, he became chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair, and a well-known portraitist. During World War II he was in charge of all navy combat photography and was also responsible for the exhibitions Road to Victory (1942) and Power in the Pacific (1945) at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. These, along with his 1955 show, The Family of Man, established a new, more popular form of photographic exhibition. In 1947 he was made director of the museum's department of photography, a position he held until 1962.
In 1961 the Museum of Modern Art mounted a retrospective of Steichen's work. The following year he received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy. His photographs have been represented in many exhibitions and publications, including the book Steichen the Photographer, with a text by his brother-in-law, Carl Sandburg. T.W.F.
Clarence H. White
Clarence H. White American, 1871-1925
Born in Carlisle, Ohio, Clarence Hudson White moved to the town of Newark in 1887. He began to photograph as a hobby in 1893, quickly becoming quite skilled, and by 1896 his works were recognized by the Ohio Photographers Association. Entirely self-taught, his mastery of the medium was based on his ability to create balanced compositions and to render the subtle effects of natural light. He explored various materials for their aesthetic possibilities, including platinum and gum bichromate prints, and, after 1906, palladium prints.
In 1898 White showed his work in Philadelphia, where it came to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz and Joseph Keiley. His images were included in the 1899 Photographic Salon in London, which had been organized by the Linked Ring. From 1900-10 White exhibited in every national and international photographic show in London, Paris, Glasgow, Berlin, and Vienna. Moving to New York City in 1906, he began a career as an educator, lecturing on photography at Columbia University Teachers College (1907-25) and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (1908-21).
In 1910 White began teaching summer classes in Seguinland, Maine, which led him to open the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York in 1914. During summer he continued to teach workshops in New York, Connecticut, and Maine. Among his accomplished students were Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul J. Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, and Karl F. Struss. Named a member of the Linked Ring in 1900, White was nominated to the Photo-Secession in 1902. He was the first president of the Pictorial Photographers of America, helping to found it with Gertrude Käsebier and others in 1916.
Influenced by Japanese art, the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and other progressive sources, White's style is imaginative and gentle, often underscored by his use of platinum papers. He believed that the photograph was a work of fine art in its own right. Although deeply involved and influential in New York's competitive world of photography, White produced his best work from 1893-1906, photographing simple, open scenes of his family and friends in their domestic, midwestern environment. T.W.F.
C. Yarnall Abbott
C. Yarnall Abbott American, 1870-1938
Although little known today, in his time Yarnall Abbott was one of the most important and widely exhibited American photographers. Besides working as a lawyer in Philadelphia, Abbott was a painter, author, and photographer, best known for his nude studies made using gum bichromate and glycerine-developed platinum prints. His work was recognized by such key figures as Alfred Stieglitz and Peter Henry Emerson.
At the height of his career during the first decade of this century, Abbott showed his images nationally and internationally in both solo and group exhibitions, including a one-person invitational at the Royal Photographic Society in London. He served as president of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia and was a member of the Linked Ring, an amateur photographic club formed in London in 1892 to promote expressive and aesthetic concerns in the camera arts. T.W.F.
Anne W. Brigman
Anne W. Brigman American, b. Hawaii, 1869-1950
Anne W. Brigman was born in Honolulu, where she lived until her family moved to California in the 1880s. Around 1900 she became interested in photography and in 1902 exhibited five of her prints in the Second San Francisco Photographic Salon. The following year Brigman joined Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession, becoming one of the few West Coast members of this elite New York-based group. Her images were reproduced in three issues of Camera Work (1909, 1912, 1913), and her photographs were included in many of the Photo-Secession exhibitions organized by Stieglitz in this country and abroad.
Brigman also exhibited her work in numerous salons of pictorial photography and in 1909 was elected to membership in the Linked Ring. Active in the Bay Area, Brigman made one trip east in 1910 to meet Stieglitz and other Photo-Secession members associated with the gallery "291." While on the East Coast she took part in Clarence White's first summer school of photography in Maine.
During the first two decades of the 20th century Brigman became known for her allegorical images of nude or classically robed female figures frequently posed in trees in the California Sierra. Following her move from Oakland to Long Beach in 1929, Brigman turned to photographic studies of the seaside. During the 1930s she began writing poetry and in 1949 published Songs of a Pagan, a book combining her photographs and poems. She died in 1950 while working on a second book, Child of Hawaii. M.M.