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HomeContents > People > Photographers > H.C. Torrance

Born: Hew Charles Torrance 
Dates:  1859 - 1931
Born:  Scotland, Old Comnock

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for H.C. Torrance
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Hew Charles Torrance was born in 1859, in Old Comnock, Scotland. He attended the London School of Mines and then traveled to South America with his brother.
Torrance immigrated to the United States in 1879, and settled in Pittsburgh. Initially, he worked as a chemist at the Carnegie Steel Company but in 1898 was appointed district sales manager for the Industrial Brownholst Corporation. In 1900, he became an American naturalized citizen.
In 1914, the first Pittsburgh Salon of National Photographic Art was presented at the Carnegie Institute, the beginning of an annual show that soon became one of the most selective and, thus, desirable American salons for pictorialists. Torrance had eleven of his pictures accepted at both the first and second Pittsburgh salons. In 1915, he also served on the executive committee of the Photographic Section of the Academy of Science and Art of Pittsburgh, the group that organized the shows.
Torrance became well known for his softly rendered images of Pittsburgh’s industrial sites—steel mills, factories, and barges. While he did essay other subjects, they always remained urban and gritty.
Inexplicably, Torrance seems to have turned his exhibiting and publishing interests away from Pittsburgh early on, even though the city remained his primary subject. He exhibited in the Toronto salon from 1914 to 1918, London in 1915, 1917, 1919, 1920, and 1924, Glasgow in 1920, and Madrid in 1922. Reproductions of his work never appeared in the American Annual of Photography, but did in England’s Photograms of the Year, eleven times between 1915 and 1929. The museum’s photograph by Torrance is a typically dark scene of an industrial area along a river, with factories, smokestacks, and railroad cars, undoubtedly Pittsburgh. 
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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