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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William A. Fraser

Dates:  1840 (ca) - 1925, 2 August
Died:  US, NY, New York City

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William A. Fraser
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Fraser was a leather merchant, with the firm of Fraser, Major and Company in New York, from about 1865 to the turn of the century.
By 1890, he was a member of New York’s foremost amateur photographic organizations, the Society of Amateur Photographer of New York and the New York Camera Club. Over the next few years, he contributed to the club’s annual exhibitions and served as a trustee and the chairman of its lantern slide committee. At the society, he frequently screened his slides at regular meetings. In 1896, when the two organizations consolidated themselves as the Camera Club of New York, Fraser became a founding member.
For the new group, he continued to show his accomplished lantern slides and initially joined its print committee. According to fellow club member Alfred Stieglitz, Fraser began focusing exclusively on slide work in 1897, and soon was world renowned for it. His lantern slides won medals at exhibitions in London, Glasgow, and Calcutta, and competitions at periodicals such as the Photographic Times, Photography, and Amateur Photographer.
Fraser’s images, both in print and slide form, were largely urban night scenes, although he also shot flowers under daylight conditions. He began working nocturnally in January 1896, after being inspired by the nighttime imagery and writings of Englishman Paul Martin. Fraser wrote his own articles on the subject for the Photographic Times in April 1897 and Camera Notes in January 1899, indicating that his exposures were usually eight to ten minutes long. He also contributed a chapter on night photography to the 1897 book Sunlight and Shadow, by W. I. Lincoln Adams.
Fraser’s image Wet Night, Columbus Circle, New York became widely heralded, and was called his "masterpiece" by critic Joseph T. Keiley. It was included in the First Philadelphia Photographic Salon of 1898 and medaled at an exhibition in Birmingham, England, the next year. In 1899, it appeared as a photogravure in the periodical Camera Notes, as well as the portfolio American Pictorial Photography I, both published by the Camera Club of New York.
Fraser remained active in the Camera Club of New York after the turn of the century, but to a lesser extent. In 1908, work by him was included in the annual members’ exhibition and he gave a slide show of his night and flower images; the next year he was elected a trustee. William A. Fraser died in his New York apartment on August 2, 1925, at age eighty-five. 
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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