|Dates: ||1866, 2 January - 1943, 9 April|
|Born: ||US, MN, Faribault|
|Died: ||US, CA, Long Beach|
Approved biography for Louis Fleckenstein
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Fleckenstein was active in pictorial circles for about forty years, beginning early in the twentieth century. He helped found numerous photographic organizations, most notably the Salon Club of America and the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. Based in California most of his life, he frequently photographed dancers and nymph figures in outdoor settings.
Louis Fleckenstein was born on January 2, 1866, in Faribault, Minnesota. As a young man, he worked part-time in his family’s brewing company and in the early 1890s moved to Helena, Montana, for a job with the Singer sewing machine company. At about this time, his wife gave him his first camera and he was soon printing his own pictures.
Fleckenstein first exhibited his pictorial photographs in 1903, when he won a prize in a Bausch & Lomb contest. From then on, he exhibited regularly and was frequently praised by photography critic Sadakichi Hartmann. His work appeared in the first and most subsequent American Photographic Salons. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, one-person exhibitions of his work were seen at camera clubs in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and Baltimore. He apparently stopped exhibiting in about 1940, after his work was included in two exhibitions at the New York World’s Fair.
Fleckenstein enjoyed organizing pictorial photographers. In 1903, after returning to Minnesota, he joined with Cal Rau of La Crosse, Wisconsin, to establish the Salon Club of America. The club encouraged a popular standard for pictorialism, circulated albums of work among members, and helped start the traveling American Photographic Salons. Upon moving to California in 1907, he revived a local camera club and, seven years later, helped found the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles, which originally included Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston. Under his direction, the Camera Pictorialists soon became the leading West Coast club and organizer of a prestigious and long-running salon. In 1934, Fleckenstein also became a charter member of the Photographic Society of America.
Reproductions of Fleckenstein’s work and occasional articles by him appeared in the photographic press. Every year between 1904 and 1929 one or more of his pictures graced the pages of the American Annual of Photography. The monthlies Camera Craft and American Photography also regularly featured his work. He sometimes wrote exhibition reviews and, in the late 1930s, contributed articles about the state of pictorial photography in the American West to England’s annual, Photograms of the Year.
Fleckenstein maintained a portrait studio in Los Angeles until his 1924 departure for Long Beach, where he became the city’s first arts commissioner. He died there on April 9, 1943.
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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