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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William E. Wilmerding

Names:
Born: William Edward Wilmerding 
Dates:  1858 - 1932, 18 August
Born:  US, NY, New York City
Died:  US, NY, New York City
 
  

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William E. Wilmerding
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

 
  
William Edward Wilmerding was born in New York in 1858, a direct descendant of DeWitt Clinton, the first governor of New York. Around 1883, he and his younger brother, Alexander Clinton Wilmerding, formed the Obrig Camera Company in New York. The business, which performed photo-finishing, framing, and commercial work (and may have manufactured cameras), moved a number of times due to growth. It published a monthly newsletter titled Down-Town Topics beginning in July 1902, which was renamed Photographic Topics in 1909 and issued through June 1911. Obrig was still operating as late as August 1920.
 
Wilmerding joined the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York by 1889, when he showed three pieces in its members’ exhibition. Seven years later, he became a member of the Camera Club of New York, when it was formed by the consolidation of the society and the New York Camera Club. Around 1900, he was elected the club’s treasurer, and his work was often included in its members’ shows between 1899 and 1908. Alexander also joined the Camera Club of New York, exhibiting his work there and elsewhere.
 
Alfred Stieglitz noticed William’s pictures and allowed him to join the Photo-Secession, the country’s leading group of pictorialists. Stieglitz featured one of Wilmerding’s pictures as a photogravure in his exquisite quarterly Camera Work in October 1908. The image, picturing buildings and smoke, evokes the London photographs of Alvin Langdon, due to its elevated viewpoint, urban subject matter, and atmospheric effects.
 
During the late 1920s, after an apparent hiatus of two decades, Wilmerding presented his work in two exhibitions. The first was a small solo show of about fifteen photographs at the Camera Club of New York in July 1927, comprised of landscapes, pastorals, and water scenes. An editor of the monthly Camera described it as "’old-time stuff’ of the best sort, refreshing in its simplicity and irreproachable in technical quality, such as Robinson, Hinton, Warburg, Wellington, Latimer and Stieglitz gave us in pre-Secession and pre-salon days." Invoking the names of top pictorialists such as Henry Peach Robinson, A. Horsley Hinton, and Alfred Stieglitz, must certainly have pleased Wilmerding. Then, two years later, England’s Royal Photographic Society presented a group show of pictures by members of the Camera Club of New York, Wilmerding among them.
 
William E. Wilmerding died on August 18, 1932, from myocarditis and general sclerosis. At the time, he was still the treasurer of the Camera Club of New York, having held the office for over thirty years. 
  
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. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
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