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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Henry M. Beach: Real photo postcards

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Henry M. Beach
Real photo postcards

Henry Beach (1863-1943) was a prolific and accomplished upstate New York photographer who documented the North Country during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Photo postcards were his specialty. Although his postcard pictures were taken to sell wholesale to hotel managers, shop owners, and other retail merchants, they are not just mass-produced stylized, pretty pictures. Beside the bubbling brooks and shady woodland paths are factory boomtowns and paper mills belching pollution. Beach photographed dandy visitors at play as well as manual laborers sweating in the forest, logging camps, factories mines and construction sites. Images of "great camps" sit next to modest abodes, small stores and family-owned resorts. Pictures of trains in scenic surroundings give way to mangled wrecks after tragic railroad accidents. In addition to standard view cards, Beach produced montages, fantasy and advertisement postcards - serious visual commentary as well as lighthearted picture play.
Henry was a local, an insider to the world he photographed, a person intimate with the regions people and geography. It was from that position that he photographed upstate New York. He had little formal education and was not professionally trained in his craft. He lived far enough away from mainstream society that his work was not dominated by national photographic style and trends. He was free to focus on different subject matter, add quirky elements to his pictures, experiment with form and composition. The result is a vernacular documentary style that is unique, engrossing and significant. His best works stir the heart and provoke the imagination, and his whimsical down-to-earth approach to photography produce images that are a treat to the eye.
All of the photographs in this exhibit are photo postcards approximately 3 x 5 inches that were taken by Henry M. Beach. 



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