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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Theodore Eitel

Born: Theodore Paul Eitel 
Dates:  1867, 24 December - 1955, July
Born:  US, KY, Louisville
Died:  US, KY, Louisville

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Theodore Eitel
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Theodore Paul Eitel was born on Christmas Eve in 1867 in Louisville, Kentucky, where he lived his entire life. His father, Paul, was born in Germany and Theodore grew up bilingual. He was most accomplished photographing wooded landscapes in his home state and southern Indiana, preferring beech trees. Eitel made his living as a businessman but enjoyed amateur musical and visual pursuits. In 1890, he organized and served as first bandmaster for the Louisville Liederkranz, a small group that played German and American military music.
According to an article by Eitel in the October 1921 issue of Photo Era, he started studying photography in about 1891, reading Peter Henry Emerson’s Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art and other books by Henry Peach Robinson. But he claims it wasn’t until seven years later, when he was thirty-one years old, that he made his first photograph, picturing a group of men outdoors. Louisville apparently did not have a camera club at this time, allowing him the freedom to work on his own as a naturalistic photographer. He frequently took his medium-format camera on the streetcar to the edge of the city to photograph trees.
Eitel exhibited in the 1902 Chicago salon, the First Minneapolis Photographic Salon of 1903, and in Boston, Budapest, and London (at the Royal Photographic Society), all apparently in the first decade of the twentieth century. His photographs received awards in competitions sponsored by the Bausch and Lomb Optical Company and the magazines Photo Era and Youth’s Companion.
His pictures were often reproduced in the photographic press, beginning as early as February 1903 in the American Amateur Photographer. Photo Era presented his images over fifteen times between 1905 and 1917. Even more impressive was his run in the American Annual of Photography, this country’s leading yearly; at least one of his tree pictures appeared in it every year from 1905 to 1926.
Eitel contributed a lead article on photographing in forests to Photo Era in September 1910, in which he discussed conservation, composition, and his love of trees. He wrote, "The trees, which have inspired so many poets, musicians, and painters, have served as the principal pictorial material for the student of photography, more particularly him who has intimately communed with these stately evidences of nature’s handicraft." He died in a Louisville nursing home in July 1955. 
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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