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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Louis Fleckenstein

Dates:  1866, 2 January - 1943, 9 April
Born:  US, MN, Faribault
Died:  US, CA, Long Beach
Active:  US
American pictorialist

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Louis Fleckenstein
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Fleckenstein was active in pictorial circles for about forty years, beginning early in the twentieth century. He helped found numerous photographic organizations, most notably the Salon Club of America and the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. Based in California most of his life, he frequently photographed dancers and nymph figures in outdoor settings.
Louis Fleckenstein was born on January 2, 1866, in Faribault, Minnesota. As a young man, he worked part-time in his family’s brewing company and in the early 1890s moved to Helena, Montana, for a job with the Singer sewing machine company. At about this time, his wife gave him his first camera and he was soon printing his own pictures. Fleckenstein first exhibited his pictorial photographs in 1903, when he won a prize in a Bausch & Lomb contest. From then on, he exhibited regularly and was frequently praised by photography critic Sadakichi Hartmann. His work appeared in the first and most subsequent American Photographic Salons. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, one-person exhibitions of his work were seen at camera clubs in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Baltimore. He apparently stopped exhibiting in about 1940, after his work was included in two exhibitions at the New York World’s Fair.
Fleckenstein enjoyed organizing pictorial photographers. In 1903, after returning to Minnesota, he joined with Cal Rau of La Crosse, Wisconsin, to establish the Salon Club of America. The club encouraged a popular standard for pictorialism, circulated albums of work among members, and helped start the traveling American Photographic Salons. Upon moving to California in 1907, he revived a local camera club and, seven years later, helped found the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles, which originally included Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston. Under his direction, the Camera Pictorialists soon became the leading West Coast club and organizer of a prestigious and long-running salon. In 1934, Fleckenstein also became a charter member of the Photographic Society of America.
Reproductions of Fleckenstein’s work and occasional articles by him appeared in the photographic press. Every year between 1904 and 1929 one or more of his pictures graced the pages of the American Annual of Photography. The monthlies Camera Craft and American Photography also regularly featured his work. He sometimes wrote exhibition reviews and, in the late 1930s, contributed articles about the state of pictorial photography in the American West to England’s annual, Photograms of the Year.
Fleckenstein maintained a portrait studio in Los Angeles until his 1924 departure for Long Beach, where he became the city’s first arts commissioner. He died there on April 9, 1943. 
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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Further research

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Louis Fleckenstein
Self-portrait of Louis Fleckenstein 
1910 (ca)
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.125 
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.217, Plate 20 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Louis Fleckenstein this is a useful starting point.] 
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