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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Emilie V. Clarkson

Born: Emilie Vallete Clarkson 
Dates:  1863, 31 January - 1946, 12 December
Born:  US, NY, Potsdam
Died:  US, NY, Potsdam

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Emilie V. Clarkson
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Emilie Vallete Clarkson was born on January 31, 1863, in Potsdam, New York, a town in the far northern reaches of the state, where she maintained at least part-time residence throughout her life. The Clarksons were a wealthy family, endowing what is now Clarkson University and giving generously to numerous local civic institutions. After studying art in New York, Clarkson turned to photography in 1888 and graduated from the Chautauqua School of Photography two years later. She became a regular contributor to the traveling albums of the Postal Photographic Club and joined the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York (SAPNY) in 1890. The next year, she started exhibiting, showing in the 1891 Joint Exhibition, the first exhibition of the Syracuse Camera Club, and the annual exhibition of SAPNY. She was particularly active in producing lantern slides, and was equally proficient at landscapes, portraits, and genre scenes. In 1893 alone, she presented solo screenings of her work in New York, Brooklyn, and Rochester, and she won prizes for her slides from SAPNY and competitions run by Amateur Photographer and another English magazine.
In 1894, by which time she was also making carbon prints, she was heralded for her accomplishments by two American photographic periodicals. The January issue of the American Amateur Photographer inducted her into its pantheon of "Prominent Amateur Photographers," (the same month as Alfred Stieglitz), which ultimately included forty-four individuals and only one other woman. Then, the August 10, 1894, issue of the Photographic Times ran a three-page article on her as part of its series on "Distinguished Photographers of Today."
Clarkson became the only female founding life member of the Camera Club of New York when it formed in 1896. Its important quarterly, Camera Notes, included a few halftones of her work, but, more significantly, a full-page photogravure by her in October 1898. Alfred Stieglitz, its editor, apparently appreciated her picture Spinning, which promoted handcraft work and idealized rural life. Stieglitz also included Clarkson’s work in the two portfolios of photogravures that the club issued in 1899 and 1901, both titled American Pictorial Photography.
Clarkson’s work was seen almost exclusively during the 1890s in the photographic press and at exhibitions. The American Annual of Photography ran her pictures in 1891, 1893, 1894, and 1895. The monthly Photographic Times included them every year between 1890 and 1895. And, the American Amateur Photographer reproduced them five times in 1894 alone.
After commencing exhibiting in 1891, she continued to show at salons in London and Paris, and the Joint Exhibitions, run by the leading camera clubs in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1894, she was included in a photographic exhibition in Milan, Italy, and in 1897 and 1898 she won gold medals for her slides at shows in Calcutta, India. Her last known display was part of the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition.
Clarkson’s marriage to William A. Moore, a Potsdam businessman, in 1901, seems to have squelched her continued pursuit of artistic photography. For the next four years, the couple traveled extensively, to Canada, California, and Europe, perhaps encouraging the new Mrs. Moore to make only tourist photographs. Subsequent to her husband’s death in 1922, Emilie Clarkson Moore lived year round in Potsdam. She died there, on December 12, 1946. 
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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