|Dates: ||1866 - 1942|
|Born: ||US, PA, Philadelphia|
Approved biography for James Bartlett Rich
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Born in Philadelphia into a wealthy family, James Bartlett Rich pursued personal interest without significant financial concerns. Nonetheless, he operated a few small businesses during his life, as well as creating naturalistic photographs.
Rich initially got caught up in the bicycling craze that swept the nation at the end of the nineteenth century. He joined a local club and by 1890 had biked over 4,500 miles. His expertise with bicycles eventually led him into importing and selling them.
In 1901, Rich sold his bicycle concern to begin a business based on his new passion for photography. He established a commercial studio in downtown Philadelphia, concentrating on product and location work, rather than portraiture. In 1908, he was hired to accompany an expedition to Yellowstone National Park, where he photographed the landscape and Native Americans. Despite operating his studio for forty years (at a number of locations), little of Rich’s commercial work has survived.
On the other hand, many of Rich’s personal, creative photographs exist. Almost invariably, this work features landscapes, waterways, and small villages. Initially, Rich enjoyed bicycling out of Philadelphia with a portable camera to find quiet, rural subjects. However, he was the first among his friends to purchase an automobile, and then began using it to find additional material to photograph. Beyond his home state, he drove with his equipment through New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Back home, he repeatedly photographed Philadelphia’s large Fairmount Park, in all seasons.
Rich apparently was happy working alone, as he did not join a camera club, the normal practice for artistic photographers at the time. He did, however, successfully submit his pictures to a few competitive public exhibitions. In 1912, his work was seen in a show sponsored by the Eastman Kodak Company in New York. And, the next year examples were included in the eighth annual photography exhibition at Philadelphia’s John Wanamaker department store, which was judged by Alfred Stieglitz. James Bartlett Rich remained active as a professional photographer until shortly before his death in 1942.
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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