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HomeContents > People > Photographers > George Timmins

Dates:  1855 - 1920, 5 June

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for George Timmins
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

George Timmins was an amateur photographer in the early twentieth century, most known for forming a collection of pictorial photographs. He was born in England, and came to the United States as a youth, settling in Troy, New York. He was living in Syracuse by 1893, when he was elected vice president of the local camera club.
Timmons became a leading Syracuse citizen, working as a businessman and serving on boards. He helped found and lead the Syracuse Tube Works, until the late 1910s, when it was bought out by a national firm and he retired. He was a director of the Onondaga County Savings Bank and a trustee of the Syracuse Public Library.
Timmons joined various photographic organizations, both local and national. As a member of the Syracuse Camera Club, he showed in their premier exhibition in 1891, plus in a 1894 group show of work by members of clubs in Albany, Utica, Buffalo, and Syracuse. He was a member of the Postal Photographic Club, an assembly of creative photographers who pasted their pictures in albums and mailed them around to fellow members. His photographs were exhibited in shows of this groupís work at the Capital Camera Club (Washington, D.C.) in 1898 and the Camera Club of New York the next year.
In addition to making photographic prints, Timmins produced lantern slides, a popular format for photographers at the time. His slides were included in an 1895 interchange among his club and those in Buffalo and Detroit. In 1899, he contributed to the Syracuse Camera Clubís own set that traveled as far as Minneapolis.
On May 25, 1896, Francis Hendricks and Company, a downtown Syracuse photographic supply store, opened in its art gallery a show drawn from Timminsís private collection of pictorial photographs by other workers. At this time, photographs were just beginning to be recognized by a small audience as works of art and collecting them was almost unheard of. Only F. Holland Day, William B. Post, and Alfred Stieglitz were also known to be collecting. In 1899, a short piece on the Post collection in Camera Notes boldly stated that Timminsís collection was "the only one in this country of importance."
The July 1896 issue of American Amateur Photographer ran an eight-page article on the Timmins collection, highly praising it and discussing many individual pieces. Timmins had been collecting for about six years, largely through correspondence, and now owned 278 prints. Among the top pictorialists represented were Englandís Henry Peach Robinson (4 photographs), Scotlandís James Craig Annan (4), Franceís Robert Demachy, and Indiaís Shapoor N. Bhedwaar. American photographers included Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., (10), William B. Post, Alfred Stieglitz (4), and nearby workers he probably knew personally, such as John Dumont of Rochester, and Emma J. Farnsworth of Albany.
A few weeks before his show opened, Timmins wrote to Stieglitz, inviting him up for a private viewing. Stieglitz was unable to make the trip, but the two corresponded a few times over the next fifteen years, revealing that Timmins had a long run of Camera Work, starting with issue number one. Timmins remained interested in pictorial photography as late as 1917, when he was listed as a member of the Pictorial Photographers of America, a new organization begun by Clarence H. White and others.
Timmins was a serious collector in areas other than photographs. He was an expert on antiquarian books and donor to the public library. And he acquired fine paintings, including work by Thomas Moran and George Inness, which he lent to the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts.
Timmins committed suicide by gunshot on the morning of June 5, 1920, in his bedroom. Local newspapers reported that though he was in good health, he had been suffering from melancholy over national public affairs. Nearly as unfortunate as his death is the fact that his pioneering collection of photographs has never been located. 
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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