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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William D. Murphy

Born: William Dennistoun Murphy 
Dates:  1859 - 1935, 23 August
Born:  US, NY, New York City
Died:  US, NY, New York City

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William D. Murphy
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

William Dennistoun Murphy was born in New York, where he lived his whole life. He attended Dolbear’s Commercial College and became an independent broker in real estate management. He was well connected to figures in finance, politics, and society; he joined professional organizations, was a delegate to local and state Republican conventions, and was on the executive committee of the New York Historical Society.
Murphy joined the New York Camera Club and began exhibiting in its annual shows in 1893. Three years later, he became a founding member of the subsequent Camera Club of New York and served as its first vice president. In 1897, he was elected to the club’s presidency, a position he held for four consecutive terms. During his tenure, the club thrived, publishing Camera Notes and presenting a pioneering series of one-person exhibitions (which were unusual at the time).
Murphy enjoyed traveling, when he apparently made most of his images. He is known to have photographed in Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Europe. His most successful images were of the sea and Niagara Falls. He made lantern slides that won in competitions and platinum prints when working on paper.
Murphy exhibited his pictures primarily in the years directly before and after the turn of the century. They were accepted at the 1896 salon in Washington, D.C., New York’s American Institute salon in 1899, and the First Chicago Photographic Salon of 1900. In 1899, his photographs were also hung in camera club shows in Detroit and Toronto. The annual exhibition of London’s Royal Photographic Society included work by him in 1910.
Naturally, he showed regularly at his own Camera Club of New York, where in 1899 he presented more prints than any other member in the annual exhibition. In March of the same year, Murphy was privileged with a solo show at the club, which he modestly titled, "The Souvenirs of a Tourist and Other Photographic Mistakes." It comprised over two hundred photographs, most of them portraits, landscapes, and marine studies.
Murphy’s images found their way into the photographic press, including the club’s own important quarterly magazine, Camera Notes, edited by Alfred Stieglitz. Photogravures by him appeared in the issues of April 1899 and October 1902. Photo Era reproduced his work in 1898 and 1899, and in March 1900 the Photographic Times featured one of his pictures as its frontispiece, richly printed in photogravure.
Murphy also pursued other photographic activities, such as judging camera club shows and competitions, which he did in New York and Orange, New Jersey. He wrote articles and reports for Camera Notes, mostly during the time he served as an officer of the club. His literary contributions appeared in other publications, as well, such as the Photographic Times. For the American Annual of Photography, he wrote an article extolling the advantages of camera club membership in 1899 and two years later on photographing the sea.
Murphy was highly praised when he stepped down from office at the Camera Club of New York in 1901. He subsequently remained involved with the club, occasionally serving on committees, sending work to its annual shows (in 1908 and 1910), and maintaining his membership until at least 1915. Twenty years later, on August 23, 1935, William D. Murphy died in New York. 
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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