Approved biography for H.Y. Sümmons
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Englishman H. Youel Sümmons was known for his romantic landscape and small-town images during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Early on he lived in Sandhurst, Camberley, and by the mid-1920s resided in Virginia Water (on the Western outskirts of London), where as late as 1944 he was the superintendent of the Holloway Sanatorium, a home for mentally ill aristocrats.
Sümmons began exhibiting in about 1906, when two of his pictures were included in the Third American Photographic Salon, a show that traveled to fourteen cities throughout the United States. These annual salons were the country’s most important series at the time, and Sümmons’s work was accepted again into the fourth (1907-1908) and fifth (1908-1909) ones. His photographs were also seen from this time until about 1930 in other salons in Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Madrid, Toronto, Turin, and Zaragoza, Spain. He exhibited the most in the 1928-29 season, when forty-four of his prints were accepted by eleven salon juries.
Illustrations and articles by Sümmons appeared in the photographic press during this same period. Photograms of the Year reproduced his work from 1907 to 1911, as did Platinum Print in 1914, and the American Annual of Photography in 1926 and 1929. In 1925, he contributed an illustrated article to the latter annual, on using paper negatives to make creative pictures. He stated that he considered this "a method of artistic expression more than as a manipulative agent," and that the paper negative could be "employed to give anything from the beautiful texture of a fine mezzotint to the sketchy effect of a rough charcoal drawing."
Sümmons also wrote a lead article for the November 1933 issue of the San Francisco magazine Photo-Art Monthly, titled "Do You Like Lobsters?" This feature was about traveling on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where lobsters were plentiful and cheaper than in England. Although the article was illustrated with many small landscape images by Sümmons, his text was solely about particular cities, hotels, and other travel information, rather than about photography.
Sümmons was friends with Sigismund Blumann, the editor of Photo-Art Monthly, sending him small, bound albums of his original photographs as holiday gifts for a number of years. The two remained in touch until at least 1944, when Blumann encouraged his son to meet Sümmons on a trip to England, writing in a letter that Sümmons was a "loyal friend" and "the foremost paper-negative worker of the world."
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 1 June 2013.
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