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Studio interior with an artist at work
Carte de visite
Private collection of Ron Coddington
(Ron Coddington, 6 April 2021) A Photography Gallery Tableau, 1860s
This carte de visite tableau pictures photographer John P. Doremus and his staff at work in their Paterson, N.J., studio. An artist holds his brush against a portrait of a man, possibly overpainting a large albumen photograph. He's being observed by another man sitting in the photographer's chair. The gent behind him standing with an arm leaning on the camera appears to be the head of the operationóbut he's not. The man standing next him, behind an easel holding a large albumen print of an outdoor scene, is Doremus. The lady seated against the wall is unknown. Hanging behind them are framed *cartes de visite *and other images.
Doremus, a native of Paterson, N.J., started out in life as an apprentice to a painter and glazier. A move west to Iowa in the late 1850s did not work out, and he returned to New Jersey with his wife, Sarah, and two young children before the war. (His family eventually grew to seven.) In 1862, at about age 35, he opened a photography gallery in Boontown, N.J. According to one source, he learned the craft from New York City photographers Edward and Henry T. Anthony. The following year, Doremus opened a new studio in Paterson and by all accounts did quite well, selling photographs, frames and oil paintings.
Ironically, this tableau does not include the photographic format for which he is best rememberedóthe stereograph. He made thousands of them during his career. They include about 4,000 made on a journey along the entire length of the Mississippi River. He took many of these images aboard the Success, his custom-built floating gallery. The flatboat included a studio, dark room and well-appointed living quarters. Sources vary on the length of time he cruised the Mississippi, and estimates range from 3 to 16 years, from the 1870s through the 1880s.
Several of Doremus' children joined him in the business. Dormeus died in 1890 at age 62.