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William Kurtz 
Madison Square studio of William Kurtz in NYC 
Stereocard, half, detail 
The Jeffrey Kraus Collection 
William Kurtz fought in the Crimean War, was shipwrecked off the Falkland Islands, was brought to NYC, found work in a photography studio, joined the NY Seventh Regiment and served in the Civil War. He partnered with several NYC photographers including George Rockwood and didn't open his own studio until 1873. He was a pioneer in reproducing photographs as halftones which was very profitable for him. Beginning in the 1860s, vignetted heads and upper torsos became a popular style of portrait photographs known as the "Rembrandt style". Kurtz perfected a process using a series of reflectors to concentrate and bounce sunlight onto the subject's face. With the subject seated against a dark background, the result emphasized strong features and masked weaker ones. However, this technique was limited by daylight hours and weather. The winter months proved to be especially problematic (as demand for studio portraits happened to rise then), and Kurtz was one of the first people to use electric lighting to achieve the same effect. He photographed many celebrities and his portraits of Walt Whitman are well known. (Text: Jeremy Kraus, 12 January 2012, Facebook - with minor edits by Alan Griffiths) 

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