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HomeContents > People > Photographers > H. Mortimer-Lamb

Born: Harold Mortimer-Lamb 
Dates:  1872, 21 May - 1970, 15 October
Born:  England, Surrey, Leatherhead
Died:  Canada, BC, Burnaby

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for H. Mortimer-Lamb
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Harold Mortimer-Lamb was a Canadian photographer, painter, art critic, and mining engineer, whose name was sometimes printed without the hyphen, suggesting his last name was Lamb. He was born on May 21, 1872, in the English town of Leatherhead, Surrey, and seventeen years later immigrated to Victoria, British Columbia, with the idea of taking up farming. However, he soon found himself attracted to newspaper work. In 1896, he began editing the B.C. Mining Record, after working at four other papers for short stints. He continued to edit and write for mining journals into the 1930s, among them the Canadian Mining Review, from 1905 to 1919 (when he was secretary of the Canadian Mining Institute), and the Miner, beginning in 1928.
Mortimer-Lamb moved to Montreal in 1905, where he regularly wrote art reviews for the Montreal Star. Around 1920, he returned to British Columbia, where he organized Vancouverís Arts and Letters Club and was an early defender of Canadaís modernist Group of Seven. For many years, he continued his connection to mining organizations, such as the Mining Association of British Columbia, and contributed articles to technical journals in Canada, the United States, and England.
Mortimer-Lamb began photographing around 1898, and by five years later was exhibiting with other pictorialists. He showed his work in the first and second salons of the Toronto Camera Club, in 1903 and 1904, and a 1905 show sponsored by the Canadian Society of Applied Art. In 1907, he and Sidney Carter each had over thirty of their pictures in Montrealís Exhibition of Pictorial Photographs Arranged by the Photo-Club of Canada, far more than anyone else.
The photographic press published both his pictures and his articles at this time. Almost every year between 1903 and 1918, his images were reproduced in Englandís Photograms of the Year. For the same annual, Mortimer-Lamb wrote about pictorial photography in British Columbia in 1904 and about developments in all of Canada in 1913-15. The American Annual of Photography 1908 featured an article by him on photographing at night.
During the 1910s, Mortimer-Lamb continued producing and sending out his pictorial photographs, which usually pictured women and/or children. The Royal Photographic Society elected him to membership in 1910, and over the next few years he won plaques for his entries to competitions sponsored by the English magazine Amateur Photographer and Photographic News.
Alfred Stieglitz chose one of his images of a mother and children for the July 1912 issue of Camera Work, which was presented as a rich photogravure. Two years later, Stieglitz asked Mortimer-Lamb to contribute an essay to the magazineís tribute to 291, prompting the Canadian to gush over the galleryís director. Mortimer-Lamb, who made frequent trips to New York, wrote, "I go not to see the latest extravagance in pictorial expression, but to hear, be inspired by a Man, and to breathe the wholesome atmosphere of 291. The Photo-Secession was this Man as much as 291 is this Man." He wrote a long article on photography as a means of creative expression for the May 1912 issue of the Canadian Magazine of Politics, Science and Literature. In 1910, 1915, and 1917, the London salon accepted work by him.
Mortimer-Lamb made a few forays into professional photography, both of which were unsuccessful. In 1906-07, he and Sidney Carter partnered in Montreal. Twenty years later, in 1926, he and John Vanderpant, another prominent pictorialist, joined forces in Vancouver. Using a building owned by Mortimer-Lamb, they opened the Vanderpant Galleries, trading on the name with greater recognition. They ran it as a combination art gallery, antique shop, and photographic studio, initially showing paintings, watercolors, etchings, and their own photographs. After a year, however, Mortimer-Lamb had lost so much money on the venture that Vanderpant took it over and eventually turned it into a cultural nexus for the community.
In the mid-1930s, Mortimer-Lamb gave up photography and turned to oil painting. He produced primarily loosely rendered figure studies, influenced by the likes of Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. One-person exhibitions of his paintings were presented by the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1952 and the Burnaby Gallery in 1965. H. Mortimer-Lamb died in Burnaby, British Columbia, on October 15, 1970, at ninety-eight. 
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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