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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    studiolymar wrote on Nov 10, '10
    Very interesting, thank you for sharing

© David S. Shields

Photographer: William McKenzie Morrison     Nov 9, '10 9:28 PM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #481

William McKenzie Morrison (1857-1927) was the finest theatrical portrait photographer in Chicago during the final decades of the 19th century. Born in 1857 in Detroit, he moved with his family to Chicago at the outbreak of the Civil War. At age 10 he began work after school as a gallery boy in a Chicago photographic studio. He graduated the Metropolitan Business College in Chicago in 1879.

For a decade he worked managing several city galleries before founding in 1889 the Haymarket Studio, located in Haymarket Theatre Building in Chicago. A thorough-going professional, he joined Benjamin Falk’s copyright protection league, serving as member of its executive committee through the 1890s. A specialist in celebrity portraits, he was continually striving for finish and effect. He favored light even tonalities that he derived from using Kirkland Lithium paper in his prints and a 3-A Dallmeyer lens. All of his portraits were taken in natural light supplied by The Haymarket’s great skylight.

His rather intuitive approach to posing was explained in an 1895 article, “How do I do It?” in Photographic Mosaics. “The naturalist acquires his knowledge by observation. So must the photographer.” He let the sitter’s habits of standing, sitting, and gesturing suggest how the person’s image should be capture. In the eyes of his colleagues he must have been a preeminent observer, for in the next year the Photographic Association of America awarded him the grand prize and a diamond medal at its St. Louis exhibition. He amazed the audience by observing, “I want to suggest forcibly that it is better often to catch the suggestions offered by the subject in hand rather than to trust entirely to your art feeling. In the use of this last you must bend sometimes.”

He evacuated the Haymarket premises in 1899, moving to the Champlain building on the corner of State & Madison Streets. He operated only during autumn, winter, and spring, summering in New Jersey. A real estate developer, landlord, and cattleman, various business interests vied for attention with his art during the first decade of the 20th century. He left off business shortly after 1910. David S. Shields

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