|Dates: ||1869 - 1960, 9 May|
|Born: ||Chile, Coquimbo|
|Died: ||England, Devonshire, Torquay|
Approved biography for Juan C. Abel
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Abel was most active and important as an editor of periodicals for professional photographers, from the turn of the twentieth century until the early 1930s. Previous to that, however, he was associated with the Camera Club of New York and some magazines that catered to amateur and pictorial photographers.
Joan Carlos Abel was born in 1869, in the coastal city of Coquimbo, Chile, to a mother from a prominent Spanish-Chilean family and a British civil engineer who immigrated there. He was orphaned at seven and then adopted by an uncle in England, who raised him and sent him to study at Oxford and Heidelberg University. After college, he moved with his wife and son, Charles, to the United States, living in Boston in 1898 and New York shortly thereafter.
His first editorial position was with Boston’s new monthly, Photo Era, overseeing its initial six issues, May to November 1898. In 1900, he was in New York, working for the Photographic Times and he edited the American Annual of Photography and Photographic Times Almanac for 1901, in which he included two of his own pictures.
Abel was active in the Camera Club of New York, the country’s leading organization of amateur photographers, beginning in April 1900, when he was sponsored by Alfred Stieglitz and elected to membership. He became the club’s librarian and compiled a catalog of its holdings that was published in the July 1902 issue of Camera Notes, the club’s journal and America’s most advanced photographic periodical. Stieglitz, who had established the magazine and edited it until this point, resigned after the July issue, and Abel took over for its last three numbers. In the last one, dated December 1903, he included one of his own images, as a tipped-in original silver print, strategically placed on the last editorial page.
Abel exhibited modestly at pictorial venues during this time. Those that are known are the annual members’ shows of the Camera Club of New York, in 1900, 1901, and 1904, the Fourth Chicago Photographic Salon (1903), and the First American Photographic Salon, a show that traveled around the country, 1904-05.
After the demise of Camera Notes at the end of 1903, Abel quickly moved to keep his hands in photographic publishing. In 1904, he issued the Photographer, a weekly that lasted only seven issues. Then, On December 7, 1907, he published the first issue of Abel’s Photographic Weekly, which enjoyed a much longer run. Abel moved its offices from New York to Cleveland in 1909 and continued to edit it through 1924, when he turned responsibility over to his son, Charles, who maintained it for another ten years. Abel’s was geared to professional photographers, but the editor was well aware of the large market for amateur photographers from his earlier days at the Camera Club of New York. So, in July 1912, Abel started yet another weekly, Amateur Photographer’s Weekly, which he managed to put out for seven years.
Abel was a non-practicing member of the national organization of professionals, the Photographers’ Association of America (PAA), since about 1900. He began speaking at its conventions about ten years later, promoting advertising and ethical behavior. During the 1910s, he worked diligently to improve the field of professional photography, by publishing the PAA’s annual report and serving on committees and as secretary. During the early 1920s, he was largely responsible for organizing and running the group’s successful annual conventions.
To further encourage professional photographers to advertise their services, Abel published the 1911 book One Hundred Practical Advertisements for Photographic Studios, which included sample ads designed for easy insertion in any photographer’s local newspaper. Five years later, he and his son updated it as Practical Studio Advertising.
After handing over the reins of Abel’s Photographic Weekly to his son in 1925, Abel commenced another magazine called the Commercial Photographer. This monthly catered to professionals who did advertising, industrial, and other non-portrait work. Abel stayed with this title for three years, and then, once again, turned its editorship over to Charles.
Around 1930, Abel left the country, reportedly making off with a female companion and not informing his son. He spent a year in France and then resettled in England, where he had been reared. True to form, he established a magazine, Photography Today, which had a short life, from October 1931 to August 1932. His last contribution to the photographic field was the three-hundred page book, Portrait Photography as a Career, published in 1940. Juan C. Abel died in a nursing home in Torquay, Devonshire, England, on May 9, 1960.
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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