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© David S. Shields

Photographer: Joseph E. Hall    Jul 1, '10 4:46 AM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #450

Joseph E. Hall (fl. 1865-1915)

Joseph Hall built his photography business in Brooklyn in the wake of the Civil War. Adept at chemistry, and inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit that galvanized the northern cities by persons who had witnessed the national scale of the victualing and supply of the Union Army, Hall became a “Manufacturing Photographer,” a camera artist with the skills and equipment to mass produce carte de visite portraits and albumin prints for public consumption.

He belonged to the handful of pioneers who produced photo-illustrated books in the 1860s documenting the picturesque Brooklyn burial park, Greenwood Cemetery in Gems of the Greenwood (1868) in conjunction with New York publisher Caldwell & Company. Yet would win fame as a mobile portraitist, taking his camera and set-up to locales in the metropolitan area to capture images of individuals and groups of people in the open air.

Among devotees of early baseball, he is regarded as the premier photographer of the professional teams and players of the 1880s. His large format plein aire images of uniformed players in ball parks have become the most collectible prints of the late 19th-century game, fetching $5,000 minimum per image. His individual player portraits in the Old Judge series of cards rank among the finest of dead ball era. They were taken when visiting teams played New York squads, and developed at his 349 Fulton Street Brooklyn Studio.

When rival baseball portraitist Benjamin “Jake” Falk succeeded in producing production shots of theatrical productions in 1883 by lighting the dark interior expanses of New York theaters with a magnesium flash, Hall embraced this new form of location photography. He quickly mastered the technique and in 1890 won the “Medal of Superiority” for flash photography at the 59th meeting of the American Institute. Since Falk was gaining more profit with studio sittings, Hall dominated the market for production stills until the appearance of Englishman Joseph Byron early in the 1890s. He also experimented with Stereoview images during the Stereo craze of the final decade of the century.

To better exploit the commercial photography market, Hall moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, establishing a gallery at the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. From 1893 to 1905 Hall and Byron photographed many of the important dramas, operas, and musical comedies in New York City. The formation of Luther White’s “White Studio” in 1904 marked the beginning of the decline of both Byron and Hall. White underbid his rivals for jobs, hired journeymen cameramen to shoot the stills, and agreed to travel outside of New York to shoot the out of town try-outs for shows.

By 1910 White Studio nearly monopolized the still market. Hall kept the immense Hippodrome theater & Charles Dillingham as loyal clients into 1915. David S. Shields

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