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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Edward L. Bafford

Dates:  1902, 16 January - 1981, 5 February
Died:  US, MD, Glen Arm

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Edward L. Bafford
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Bafford made pictorial images in both black and white and color from the 1920s until his death. He was a master of the bromoil process, usually making romantic images of rural life and the environs of Baltimore. He spent his entire professional career in the commercial printing industry.
Edward L. Bafford was born on January 16, 1902, and was orphaned three years later. He was raised in Baltimore by his grandmother, but forced by poverty to leave school at age eleven to work in a factory. In 1916, he secured a job at a commercial printer and began his life-long vocation. After working for a few firms, he joined with two partners in 1944 to establish Neolith Colorcraft, a lithographic printing house from which he retired in 1967.
Bafford received his first camera in 1914 and a few years later made his first important photograph. Taken surreptitiously due to wartime restrictions, it pictures a workman steam cleaning the wheels of a locomotive. Photographic salons in Rochester and Portland, Maine, quickly accepted the print, and Bafford’s long exhibition career commenced. He began working with the manipulative bromoil process around 1926 and used it for the rest of his life. This hand worked process results in an image that appears pointillistic and painterly, characteristics admired by traditional pictorialists.
Bafford enjoyed sharing knowledge with fellow photographers. In 1932 he taught a photographic class over the radio, and three years later he began a weekly series called the "Bafford School of Photography" at the Baltimore Camera Club. He demonstrated the bromoil process to clubs in Akron, Detroit, and, most frequently, his hometown. He was active in national and local photographic organizations, such as the Baltimore Camera Club, which he joined in 1926 and then served as president ten times. He was also instrumental in forming the Council of Maryland Camera Clubs. In 1937 he joined the Photographic Society of America, which later gave him fellowship status (FPSA). Additionally, he served as chairman for the PSA’s 1950 national convention, which was held in Baltimore.
During the 1930s and 1940s, his work was repeatedly shown in salons in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington, Delaware. Even after the mid-century demise of pictorialism, Bafford continued to submit work to camera-club sponsored exhibitions for two decades. In addition to his presence at photographic salons, Bafford also presented numerous one-person exhibitions of his work. He had three solo shows at the Smithsonian Institution, in 1950, 1952, and 1956, and one each at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Arts Society of Washington, D.C., in the mid-1950s. In 1963, his work traveled through the Soviet Union with that of A. Aubrey Bodine, Baltimore’s best-known pictorialist and a close friend.
Baltimore institutions held Bafford in high esteem. For example, the Baltimore Camera Club named an award in his honor in 1953 and honored him at numerous surprise banquets. In 1975, the University of Maryland Baltimore County presented a one-person exhibition of his recent color photographs and named its photography collection after him. Most of his work now resides there. Edward L. Bafford died on February 5, 1981, in Glen Arm, Maryland. 
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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