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Avedon, Richard (15 May 1923–01 October 2004), photographer, was born in New York City to Jacob Israel Avedon (pronounced AV-uh-don) and Anne Polonsky. His father, an orphaned Jewish émigré from Russia, rose from menial employment in Manhattan’s garment district to become the owner of a successful women’s clothing store in the city. The elder Avedon taught his son frugality from an early age and assumed he would become a businessman. However, Richard Avedon’s exposure to the city’s wealth of culture drew him to the arts. That exposure included not only visits to concerts and museums but also hearing the Russian-born pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, a neighbor of his maternal grandparents, practicing tirelessly next door during Richard’s frequent visits to their apartment. A seminal moment in his life occurred at the age of seven when he was given a box camera and used it to take a photograph of Rachmaninoff backstage after a Carnegie Hall performance....

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Bourke-White, Margaret (14 June 1904–27 August 1971), pioneer photojournalist and industrial photographer, was born in New York City, the daughter of Joseph Edward White, an amateur photographer and an engineer and inventor for a printing press manufacturer, and Minnie Bourke, a teacher. Originally using the name Margaret White, she added her mother’s maiden name in 1927....

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Brady, Mathew B. (1823?–15 January 1896), photographer and entrepreneur, was born near Lake George, New York, the son of Andrew Brady and Julia (maiden name unknown), poor, working-class parents of Irish heritage. His first name has often been misspelled Matthew; Brady himself did not know what his middle initial stood for. Little is known of his childhood and schooling, and there is some question as to how literate Brady was because others handled his correspondence and financial records. His signature is one of the few examples of his handwriting left behind....

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Edgerton, Harold Eugene (06 April 1903–04 January 1990), electrical engineer and photographer, was born in Fremont, Nebraska, the son of Frank E. Edgerton, a lawyer, and Mary Coe. Edgerton received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska in 1925 and a doctorate of science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931. He married Esther May Garrett in 1928; they had three children. Most of Edgerton’s career centered on his invention, development, and application of the stroboscopic flash....

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Evans, Walker (02 November 1903–10 April 1975), photographer and author, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Walker Evans II, an advertising copywriter, and Jessie Crane. (Although several sources and Evans himself claimed he was born on 3 Nov., his birth certificate says 2 Nov.) Shortly after his birth, the Evans family relocated to Kenilworth, a prosperous suburb of Chicago, and then to Toledo, Ohio. After his parents’ separation in 1918, he moved with his mother to New York City and was enrolled in a series of boarding schools, including the Loomis Institute, Mercersburg Academy, and the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. During his year at Andover, Evans developed an appreciation of literature and began to consider a career as a writer. Evans entered Williams College but, finding it unsuited to his interests, withdrew at the end of the freshman year, after the spring 1923 semester. In 1926 a small family allowance enabled Evans to spend a year in Paris, where he visited well-known expatriate places and may have received informal instruction at the College de France and at the Sorbonne....

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Mel Byars and N. Elizabeth Schlatter

Genthe, Arnold (08 January 1869–09 August 1942), photographer, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Hermann Genthe, a professor of Latin and Greek, and Louise Zober. Genthe received his doctorate in philology from the University of Jena in 1894. While in school, he associated with his mother’s cousin, the painter Adolf Menzel, and he published ...

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Jackson, William Henry (04 April 1843–30 June 1942), photographer and painter, was born in Keeseville, New York, the son of George Hallock Jackson, a blacksmith and carriage builder, and Harriet Maria Allen. Jackson’s academic education ended when he was about sixteen. His mother taught him to draw and paint in watercolor. She presented him with a copy of ...

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Käsebier, Gertrude Stanton (18 May 1852–13 October 1934), photographer, was born in Fort Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of John W. Stanton, a mining entrepreneur, and Gertrude Muncy Shaw, a boardinghouse operator. As a child of eight, Gertrude crossed the plains by wagon with her mother, brother, aunt, and uncle, to Colorado Territory to join her father, who had preceded them in 1859 to search for gold and set up a processing mill in Eureka Gulch, near Central City. Then, around 1864 the Stanton family moved east to Brooklyn, New York. During 1868–1870 Gertrude stayed with her grandmother in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, while attending the Moravian Seminary for Women. In 1874 she married Eduard Käsebier, an immigrant shellac importer from Wiesbaden, Germany, whom she had met at her mother’s boardinghouse in Brooklyn. The couple had three children....

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Le Clercq, Tanaquil (02 October 1929–31 December 2000), ballerina, teacher, author, and photographer, was born in Paris, France, the daughter of Edith Whittemore Le Clercq, a socialite from St. Louis, Missouri, and the American writer Jacques Georges Clemenceau Le Clercq, a poet and a prolific translator, principally from the French. Le Clercq's father named her after “Paul Tanaquil”—his own occasional pseudonym, which referred to the Etruscan queen and prophetess of ancient Rome. From Le Clercq's childhood on, however, she was known as “Tanny” to family and friends....

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Lee, Russell Werner (21 July 1903–28 August 1986), photographer, was born in Ottawa, Illinois, the son of Burton Lee, a businessman, and Adeline Pope. The family was financially well off but unstable. Lee’s parents divorced when he was five, and his father disappeared from his life. Five years later his mother was killed by a car while crossing a busy street in a rainstorm, leaving Lee, who witnessed the event, to be raised by a succession of relatives and court-appointed guardians. In later life, many of Lee’s strongest photographs would be of objects and symbols that evoked “home” or “community.”...

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Man Ray (27 August 1890–18 November 1976), artist and photographer, was born Emmanuel Radnitsky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Melach Radnitsky (later Max Ray), a tailor, and Manya “Minnie” Louria (or Lourie), both Russian-Jewish immigrants. In 1897 the family moved to Brooklyn. After high school young Emmanuel was awarded a scholarship to study architecture at New York University. Deciding to pursue a career as an artist, he attended classes at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students League. He was temperamentally unsuited to the rigors of the academic styles favored by these institutions, however, and so enrolled in the Ferrer Center, where ...

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Riis, Jacob August (03 May 1849–26 May 1914), journalist and social reformer, was born in Ribe, Denmark, the son of Niels Edward Riis, a Latin teacher, and Carolina Lundholm. After studying in his father’s school, Riis was apprenticed for four years to a carpenter in Copenhagen. Unable to find steady employment and spurned by Elisabeth Gortz, the young woman who in 1876 would marry him, Riis emigrated in 1870 to the United States. For the rest of his life he regularly compared the sociability and the close relationships of life in Ribe with the impersonality and harsh precariousness of American urban life....

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Shahn, Ben (12 September 1898–14 March 1969), painter and graphic artist, was born Benjamin Shahn in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, the son of Hessel Shahn, a carpenter and woodcarver, and Gittel Lieberman. Kovno was located in the area of czarist Russia known as the Pale of Settlement, where Russian Jews were legally allowed to settle. In 1906 the family was forced to flee the pogroms, government-sponsored massacres of Jews, that swept through the Pale at the turn of the century. They took refuge in the United States and settled in Brooklyn. In 1913 Shahn was taken out of school and began an apprenticeship as a lithographer at Hessenberg’s Lithography Shop in Manhattan. During the next four years he not only mastered the skill of lettering but also developed a distinctive, incised line that would become a hallmark of his later work as a painter and graphic artist. During his apprenticeship he also attended night school in order to complete his high school diploma and enrolled briefly, in November 1916, in classes at the Art Students League in New York....

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Steichen, Edward (27 March 1879–25 March 1973), photographer and curator of museum exhibitions, was born Edouard Jean Steichen in Luxembourg, the son of Jean-Pierre Steichen, a copper miner, and Marie Kemp, a milliner. The family immigrated to Milwaukee in 1881. Edward Steichen began his distinguished career with an apprenticeship (1894–1898) at the Milwaukee American Fine Art Company, where he learned lithography and the basics of design. At the same time, with encouragement from his mother, he studied painting at the Milwaukee Art Students League....

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Stieglitz, Alfred (01 January 1864–13 July 1946), photographer and editor, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of Edward (originally Ephraim) Stieglitz, a German-born wool merchant, and Hedwig Werner. Stieglitz grew up in an affluent, cultured family who felt at home on two continents. After his family moved to New York City, Alfred was educated at the Charlier Institute, Townsend Harris High School, and the City College of New York, where he was ranked consistently as one of the top ten students in his class. By 1881 his father, a Civil War veteran, had made a fortune that enabled him to retire and take his family to Europe, where he provided his children the best possible continental education....

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Van Vechten, Carl (17 June 1880–21 December 1964), writer and photographer, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Charles Duane Van Vechten, a banker and insurance agent, and Ada Amanda Fitch. Van Vechten entered the University of Chicago in 1899 and graduated in 1903, whereupon he went to work as a society reporter and photographer for the ...

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Wolcott, Marion Post (07 June 1910–24 November 1990), photographer, was born in Montclair, New Jersey, the daughter of Walter Post, a physician, and Marion Hoyt, a trained nurse. Marion and her sister, Helen, were to pursue parallel careers in photography, the latter never gaining the recognition eventually accorded her younger sibling. Marion’s early education was sporadic; she attended Bloomfield High but then was sent to a private girls’ school in Pennsylvania during her parents’ separation and eventual divorce. Her mother, deemed an eccentric radical by her New Jersey neighbors, moved to the city to work for ...