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HomeContents > People > Photographers > B.J. Ochsner

Born: Benjamin James Ochsner 
Dates:  1869, 10 January - 1953, 20 December
Born:  US, WI, Prairie-du-Sac
Died:  US, CO, Durango

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for B.J. Ochsner
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Benjamin James Ochsner was a Colorado medical doctor from a long line of M.D.ís, who also pursued his passions for the outdoors, music, and photography. He hunted, was a pistol champion, and gained extensive knowledge of Colorado birds. He played in his college band, was part of an amateur string ensemble, and amassed a substantial collection of symphonic and operatic recordings.
Ochsner was born on January 10, 1869, in Prairie-du-Sac, Wisconsin, and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He attended Rush Medical School in Chicago and interned at Cook County Hospital. After an additional year of study in Europe, he commenced practicing medicine in Telluride, Colorado, in 1902. The next year, he moved south to Durango, where he started the first of three hospitals he would administer. From 1913 to 1936, he ran the Ochsner Hospital out of a stately Queen Anne Victorian mansion, and after retiring continued to treat some of his older patients.
Dr. Ochsner joined the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1922, and began exhibiting nationally shortly thereafter. Between 1925 and 1951, his pictorial prints were exhibited at salons in Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Minneapolis, New York, London, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Princeton, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, Turin, and Wichita. During most of this time, ten or more salons a year accepted his work, and the 1941-42 season was his most successful, with thirty-nine of them hanging a total of sixty-nine prints. The American Annual of Photography reproduced his work in 1933, 1935, 1941, 1943, and 1951. Its allied monthly, American Photography, featured one of his images on the cover of its March 1944 issue.
Ochsner was most drawn to outdoor subjects, sometimes with figures; when he wasnít shooting guns, he was shooting film. And he didnít leave his cameras at home during the winter, as proven by his image Hidden Valley. Made from an elevated position (most likely a steep hill), the picture shows a barn under heavy snow and gentle light, effectively framed on the bottom and sides by tree branches. This carbon print reveals the strength of the process, with deep shadow areas, subtle middle values, and bright highlights. Ochsner was an accomplished carbon printer and, in this case, used a cold blue hue particularly appropriate for the subject. He wrote an article on the process for the May 1947 issue of Camera, which called him "the foremost exhibitor of carbon prints in the United States." B. J. Ochsner died unexpectedly at his Durango home, on December 20, 1953. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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