Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Ansco published a magazine entitled Portrait from 1909 to 1921 to promote its photographic products, particularly the Cyco line of photo printing paper. Ansco's magazine targeted advanced amateurs and professional studio portraitists. Articles dealt with aesthetic and technical topics of interest to those groups, as well as effective marketing strategies. The publication's cover photo often featured a prominent portrait photographer, and an article was devoted to the photographer's work along with a brief biography. Articles on aesthetics and technique were frequently the work of prominent critic, Sadakichi Hartmann.  Many issues of Portrait are available on line at the Internet Archive site, and a good overview of the publication has been prepared by Gary D. Saretzky.

The cover of the July,1912 issue of Portrait featured Gertrude Kasebier, one of the original founders of the Photo-Secession movement along with Alfred Stieglitz.  Examples of Kasebier's work had appeared in the first issue of Camera Work in 1903, and Stieglitz again paid tribute to her extraordinary talent in the April,1905 issue.  The two parted company around the time this article appeared in Ansco's magazine.  Stieglitz accused Kasebier of putting commercial considerations above the aesthetic ideals of the Photo Secession, and Kasebier left the organization.

The 1912 Ansco article had a fawning tone and the portrait that was included as an example of her work had a rather bland character which seems to give some weight to Stieglitz's assertions.  Taking a broader view of Kasebier's long and productive career, however, makes Stieglitz's judgment seem short-sighted and uncharitable.  Still, it is interesting to compare some of her commercial portraiture with the kind of pictures that first brought her to the pages of Camera Work.

This portrait of Evelyn Nesbit by Kasebier was made about 1900 and published as a photogravure in the first issue of Camera Work in 1903.

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