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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Robert L. McFerran

Born: Robert Lincoln McFerran 
Dates:  1895 (ca) - 1957, 19 September
Born:  US, IN, Fort Wayne
Died:  US, MN, Minneapolis

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Robert L. McFerran
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Robert Lincoln McFerran was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana; he resided in Wheaton, Illinois, and St. Louis in the mid-1930s. In 1936, he settled in Minneapolis, where he worked for the Medical Protective Company, selling insurance.
In 1937, McFerran joined the Minneapolis Camera Club and served on the committee that organized that year’s salon. McFerran had, in fact, started exhibiting in the Minneapolis Salon of Photography in 1935, and his work was accepted every year except once from then through 1948. The 1939 catalog reproduced an image of his of sailboats that he made from a paper negative. He was chairman of the salon committee for three years, from 1941 to 1943.
In 1938, McFerran was thrust into the national spotlight when one of his images was included in the deluxe publication Modern Masters of Photography: Pictorialists, edited by Condé Nast art director Hayworth Campbell. Among the less than forty photographers whose work was included were Léonard Misonne and William Mortensen. His image The Phantom is an uncharacteristically haunting pictorial work, showing a man’s face in deep shadow, with barely visible mouth, nose, and eyes. It was printed in high-quality gravure, with a heavy layer of flat black ink.
Between about 1935 and 1953, McFerran also exhibited on the national scene. His prints were accepted at salons in Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit, Duluth, Houston, Indianapolis, Omaha, Princeton, San Francisco, Sioux City, St. Louis, Wilmington, and Wichita, and in 1953 he exhibited color slides at the Sixth El Camino Real International Exhibition in Los Angeles.
In Minneapolis, he was continually active in camera clubs. For the Minneapolis club, he served as vice-president, 1938-39, and president, 1939-41. About this time, he occasionally judged the monthly competitions of the Minneapolis Photographic Society. He was on the jury for the 1945 and 1946 Minnesota Statewide Salons, hung at Dayton’s department store. The Minneapolis salon catalogs featured an image by him of the façade of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts either on its cover or as its frontispiece every year between 1941 and 1946. And, the Minneapolis Camera Club honored him at its March 24, 1947, meeting, on the eve of his return to Fort Wayne.
In 1940, McFerran joined the Photographic Society of America (PSA), a national organization of pictorialists. The September 1946 issue of thePSA Journal reproduced one of his images, and the June 1951 issue included his article "Salonomania," in which he observed the competitive nature of the shows, where pictorialists would try and outrank each other with large quantities of accepted prints. In 1953, he was conferred fellowship status in the society (FPSA). And, the next year he was appointed personal assistant to the PSA director, charged with matching member volunteers to photographic opportunities at the national, regional, and local level.
McFerran returned to Minneapolis in 1953, resumed his work in medical insurance, joined the Color Photo Club, and exhibited slides in the annual salon. In 1955, he was chairman of the Minneapolis Council of Camera Clubs. He died on September 19, 1957, in Minneapolis, and was buried back in Fort Wayne. 
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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