|Born: William Boyd Post |
Other: W.B. Post
Other: William Post
|Dates: ||1857, 26 December - 1921, 12 June|
|Born: ||US, NY|
|Died: ||US, ME, Fryeburg|
American photographer and member of the Photo-Secession in the United States.
Approved biography for William B. Post
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Post was an accomplished American artistic photographer at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1903 he was a founding member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession, he frequently exhibited with the group, and he had one of his images appear in its journal Camera Work. He was widely admired for his subtle platinum prints of snow scenes and water lilies, photographed in Maine, where he retired young.
William Boyd Post was born in New York on December 26, 1857, and grew up in a well off family. In 1880, he became a partner in Homas and Company, a New York brokerage firm and seven years later obtained a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, where his father also worked.
He began photographing around 1885 and three years later joined both the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York and the New York Camera Club. The first major show that included his work was the 1889 Joint Exhibition, a collaboration between the leading camera clubs in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. In the early 1890s, he traveled to Bermuda, the Bahamas, and Japan. His trip to Japan, where he visited most of the major cities, consumed nearly all of 1891 and began with four months in California, where he photographed and spent time with the landscape painter George Inness. During the 1890s, he was known for his lantern slides (the format most serious amateurs preferred at the time), sending them to competitions, exhibitions, and screenings. At this time, Post was making photographs that were naturalistic in style, celebrating rural living and Mother Nature.
In 1893, Post commenced a friendship with Alfred Stieglitz, showing him how to use a hand camera. Also that year, he showed the most work and won the most medals at the annual members’ exhibition of the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York. Between 1894 and 1896, he exhibited in ninety-six shows, more than any other period during his life. These included exhibitions in Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium, and India. He became a founding member of the Camera Club of New York in 1896, when the two clubs he previously belonged to consolidated.
Post’s father died unexpectedly in 1897, providing him with a healthy inheritance, so he quit the stock exchange and turned more of his attention to photography. In 1898, he moved to the small town of Fryeburg, Maine, forty-five miles west of Portland, taking up permanent residence in what previously was the family’s vacation house. About this time, he began collecting creative photographs by other makers, a nearly unique activity. In fact, by 1898, he already owned sixty-two prints, and eventually owned work in depth by many of the world’s leading pictorialists, such as Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Robert Demachy, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., A. Horsley Hinton, Gertrude Käsebier, and Clarence H. White. Unfortunately, this very important collection did not survive, much of it being sold off by Post’s widow after he died.
Post wrote at least ten letters to Stieglitz the year he moved to Maine, indicative of their closeness but also of Post’s new isolation from New York. About this time, Stieglitz published one of Post’s images in both the quarterly Camera Notes and the portfolio American Pictorial Photography. By this time, Post had become a full-blown pictorialist, now concentrating on making platinum prints that often featured snow or water lilies as subjects. These intimate pieces sported subtle tonalities and understated decorative schemes, showing the influence of Japanese art. In 1900, he presented the most important exhibition of his career, a solo show of over fifty prints at the Camera Club of New York, which was favorably reviewed by the art critic Sadakichi Hartmann.
In 1901, Camera Notes included a photogravure of his signature picture, Intervale, Winter (1899), showing a wide expanse of snow in the foreground. The next year, Stieglitz include his work in the inaugural show of the Photo-Secession, at New York’s National Arts Club, and Post became one of the few members of this elite group living outside of New York and Philadelphia. Thereafter, Post’s work was included in Photo-Secession loan exhibitions, many of its annual members’ shows (at the Little Galleries on New York’s Fifth Avenue, beginning in 1905), and most of its major museum presentations, including those at the Corcoran Gallery of Art (1904), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1904), and Albright Art Gallery (1910). In 1904, one of Post’s other winter scenes was issued as a photogravure in Camera Work.
Post was involved with the nearby Portland Camera Club by 1904, when it hung a one-person show of his work. Four years later, he had a falling out with Stieglitz and cancelled his subscription to Camera Work. From then on, evidence of him rarely appeared in the photographic press. He did, however, write short articles on his two favorite subjects for the Boston monthly Photo Era; one on photographing snow for the March 1910 issue and one on water lilies in August 1914. And in 1912, he exhibited work from his collection of photographs by others at Portland’s Sweat Memorial Art Museum.
By the year of his death, Post was financially poor. He died in his sleep in Fryeburg, on June 12, 1921 (not 1925, as most sources cite).
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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