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HomeContents > People > Photographers > T.W. Kilmer

Born: Theron Wendell Kilmer 
Other: Dr. Theron Wendell Kilmer 
Dates:  1872, 17 March - 1946, 31 July
Born:  US, IL, Chicago
Died:  US, NY, Long Island, Hempstead

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for T.W. Kilmer
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Dr. Theron Wendell Kilmer was a New York pediatrician who was exceedingly accomplished at making portraits of men as his hobby. He was a member of the Camera Club of New York, Nassau County (New York) Camera Club, Pictorial Photographers of America, and was designated an associate of the Photographic Society of America (APSA) and a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS).
Kilmer was born on March 17, 1872, in Chicago, and moved with his family to New York as a ten year old. He attended Columbia University and became a doctor in 1895. He taught first aid to the New York police and fire departments, devised chemical tests for alcoholism, wrote three medical books (between 1903 and 1906), and was active in the Society of U.S. Military Surgeons and the American Medical Association.
He began as an amateur photographer in the late 1890s and by 1909 had work accepted at exhibitions in Indianapolis and Montreal. Over the next three decades, his photographs were shown in New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Toronto, London, and, lastly, Rochester, in 1942. The Camera Club of New York presented a solo show of his work in 1939.
Kilmer considered the German painter Hans Holbein his greatest inspiration and suggested that photographers would learn more by going to art museums than from reading photographic literature. Using cameras that took negatives up to 11 x 14 inches in size, he was a meticulous worker, often making contact prints of great richness and atmosphere.
He established himself primarily as a photographer of men, framing them in a classic manner and capturing their essential character. Kilmer was so good at his hobby that his work was frequently compared to that of Pirie MacDonald, a renowned professional portrait photographer who also concentrated on men. Most of Kilmer’s sitters were fellow doctors, giving him the advantage of knowing his subjects and sharing a profession. The museum’s portrait by Kilmer is of D. J. Ruzicka, a prominent New York pictorialist who was also a medical doctor.
Kilmer began writing articles for photographic magazines in 1912, covering such topics as bird photography and paper negatives. Four years later, he won a prize in a portrait competition put on by Photo Era and he began focusing on the subject. He contributed articles on portraiture to that magazine in November 1925, to Camera Craft in October 1916, and the American Annual of Photography, primarily in the 1920s but also as late as 1942.
Kilmer shared his expertise with amateurs and professionals alike. He gave a talk on the portraiture of men at the 1938 convention of the Photographers’ Association of America, an organization of professionals. His pictures appeared on the cover of its weekly publication Professional Photographer that same year and in 1940. His last article was on the gum-bichromate process, published after his death in the American Annual of Photography 1947.
T. W. Kilmer passed away on July 31, 1946, after a month of heart troubles, at Mercy Hospital, in Hempstead, Long Island (New York). He warranted an obituary in the New York Times, with his picture and an emphasis on his medical accomplishments. 
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.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

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