Approved biography for Louis F. Stephany
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Louis F. Stephany was a leading figure in naturalistic photography in Pittsburgh, where he worked for the Carnegie Steel Company.
Stephany first exhibited in the 1900 Pittsburgh Photographic Salon, where his print The Last Load received a prize. This image, a haying scene, went on to become his most well-known, and was reproduced in the January 1904 issue of the Photographic Times. In 1902, he contributed an illustrated article on flower and fruit still-life photography to the American Annual of Photography, in which he discussed lighting, backgrounds, and the proper apparatus for such work.
Stephany’s greatest contributions came a few years later. In 1903, he helped establish and served as the first director of the Camera Club of Pittsburgh, a small group devoted to creative photography. In January 1904, he edited the first (and possibly only) issue of Camera Topics, as the journal of the club. This small, unillustrated publication gave a brief history of American pictorial photography, praised Alfred Stieglitz, detailed club meetings, and listed its officers. Its handsome design and letterpress printing were inspired by Stieglitz’s own quarterly Camera Work.
In the fall of 1903, Stephany visited Stieglitz in New York and the two agreed to have their respective groups cosponsor an exhibition at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh’s leading art museum. A Collection of American Pictorial Photographs, seen early the next year, featured work by such Pittsburgh photographers Charles K. Archer, Oscar C. Reiter, and Stephany, and many prominent Photo-Secessionists. The show was well attended and accompanied by a deluxe catalog illustrated with seven photogravures from Camera Work. Stephany himself became a member of the Secession, but did not participate in any of its other exhibitions. The last show known to include Stephany’s work was the Capital Camera Club’s 1905 annual exhibition, presented at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
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.
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