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© David S. Shields
Photographer: Aime Dupont Nov 6, '10 12:57 PM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #479
In 1884 the Belgian born sculptor Aime Dupont (1842-1900) suffered financial embarrassment in Paris. At the urging of his American born wife Etta Greer Dupont, he emigrated to New York City, setting up a portrait studio in Harlem. With his wife keeping the books, Aime Dupont’s studio enjoyed such great initial success that early in 1886 he moved his premises to 574 Fifth Avenue.
Having been trained in chemical processes as well as fabrication techniques in the School of Mines, Liege, Dupont participated in the technical experimentation that marked the most innovative photographers of the era. He built his own staging areas in his gallery, arranging screens and baffles so that the natural light could be used to maximum emotive effect. He maintained a sculpture studio in the same building.
Because of his connection with the Parisian artistic scene, Dupont determined from the first to concentrate his business upon celebrity portraiture: opera singers, actresses, dancers, authors, and musicians. He became the first choice photographer of the newly formed Metropolitan Opera. Like the other New York celebrity photographers—Sarony, Falk, Mora, and Schloss—he greatly concerned himself with reproduction technology.
Though he advertised himself an ‘Artistic Photographer’ he was every bit as much a ‘Manufacturing Photographer,’ to use the parlance of that day. He was among the first to regularly seek publication of his images in periodicals.
In the 1890s his health declined—perhaps because of his exposure to certain of the chemicals used in photo development. A bout of indisposition forced his wife in the 1890s to substitute as photographer for a sitting of actress Emma Eames. She recalled, “I had no experience in taking pictures, but I had always been associated with artists and had an understanding of line and light. My knees trembled and my hands shook, but—I took the picture off Mme. Eames, and it was a success. Then—well, I kept on.” [Wilson’s Photographic Magazine, 50, p. 213]
As Aime’s health decline in the last years of the 19th century, Etta Greer Dupont took over the task of posing sitters. Upon his death in 1900, she kept the studio operating under her husbands name, and a generation of young stage people grew up think that Etta was Aime Dupont. She grew so successful that she opened a branch studio at Newport, and photographed socialites there during the summer months when she shuttered the New York business. She was listed in the New York Blue Book.
In 1907 she began providing illustrations for the New York Time’s “Society and Home and Abroad” column, By 1912 she had rebranded the business as the “Photographer for Smart Society.” In 1920 the business went into bankruptcy with liabilities of 25, 302 & assets of 5,878. She sold the name to other interests who maintained the studio as a portrait brand through the 1950s. Aime & Etta Dupont had a single child, a son, Alfred, who was educated in the family business, but who determined to become an independent artist upon reaching manhood. David S. Shields
Maxims for Posing by Aime Dupont
“Make no preparation beyond selecting becoming dress.”
“The hand that falls supple will not look large”
“The eyes of one too eagerly attentive are likely to have the hideous photographic stare.”
“A short, stout person should take a standing pose. Tall, slender persons may pose any way.”