|Dates: ||1883 - 1943, 2 March|
|Died: ||US, NJ, East Orange|
Approved biography for Thomas O. Sheckell
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Sheckell photographed from the 1910s until his death. He specialized in pictorial images of trees and published a book on the subject. He lived in the New York area, working much of the time in finance.
Thomas O. Sheckell was born in Tekamah, Nebraska, in 1883. He graduated from the University of Indiana and then practiced law in Salt Lake City. He later moved to New York, and finally settled in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1928. While living in the Northeast, he was an executive at the New York Association of Credit Men.
Sheckell was making accomplished pictorial photographs by 1919, when his work was included in salons in Montreal and Pittsburgh. He continued to submit to international salons for the rest of his life, with the 1942-42 season being his most prolific—113 prints shown at more than forty sites. His work was accepted by juries in Buffalo, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, Philadelphia, Princeton, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco, Madrid, Ottawa, Toronto, and Turin. Solo shows of his work were presented in 1922 at the California Camera Club (San Francisco) and in 1929 at the Newark Camera Club.
Sheckell was particularly active in the Pictorial Photographers of America (PPA). He was a council member in 1920 and saw his pictures reproduced in the group’s handsome annual, Pictorial Photography in America, in 1920 and 1922. During the 1930s, he regularly spoke at PPA meetings, and he served as president of the organization for two terms, from 1937 to 1939.
Sheckell assisted other groups, as both a teacher and a mentor. From 1936 to 1938, he was president of the Orange Camera Club. At about this time, he led a photographic tour of Europe and taught classes at the Ridgewood Camera Club (New Jersey) and the Metropolitan Camera Club Council (New York). In 1937, he gave the course on advanced pictorialism at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and three years later was appointed dean of faculty at the New York Institute of Photography. In addition, he wrote articles on portraiture for Camera (February 1940) and on the mediobrome process for Camera Craft (January 1942).
Sheckell favored tree subjects for his pictorial photographs. These images were frequently reproduced, especially in the monthly magazine American Photography. In 1933, the American Forestry Association awarded him first prize for an image it considered the year’s most beautiful tree photograph. He often pictured trees in silhouette, against a brooding sky, or prominently placed in the foreground against a tapestry of nature. In 1936, his book Trees: A Pictorial Volume for Lovers of Nature was published and favorably reviewed by the New York Times (January 10, 1937) and numerous photographic magazines. It comprised 100 full-page images with evocative lines of text. His only other publishing venture was editing the 1941 Universal Photo Almanac. Thomas O. Sheckell died on March 2, 1943, of a heart attack in his East Orange studio.
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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