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Adams, Ansel (20 February 1902–22 April 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup....

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Arnold, Eve (21 April 1912–04 January 2012), photojournalist, was born Eve Cohen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the seventh of nine children of the Ukrainian Jewish immigrants Vevel (William) Sklarski, a rabbi, and Bosya (Bessie) Laschiner. Although Eve’s parents were poor she received a good basic education. Eve first considered a career as a writer or a dancer, then settled on medicine, but she gave this up to move to New York City. During World War II she got a job at America’s first automated photographic film processing plant in Hoboken, New Jersey, although she knew little about photography then. It was only in 1946 when her then boyfriend gave her a forty-dollar Rolleicord camera that she took up photography as a hobby. The boyfriend did not last long, but her love of photography grew into a highly successful and fulfilling career....

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Richard Avedon. 1979. Associated Press.

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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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Bachrach, Louis Fabian (16 July 1881–24 July 1963), portrait photographer and businessman, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of David Bachrach, Jr., a photographer, and Frances Keyser. Bachrach attended public schools and graduated from the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1897. He also took classes at the Maryland Institute of Art and Design and the New York Art Students League; these classes gave him the “sense of line and knowledge of the anatomy of the human figure” that proved invaluable to him as a photographer....

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Mathew B. Brady Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-BH827-2102).

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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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N. Elizabeth Schlatter

Callahan, Harry (22 October 1912–15 March 1999), photographer, was born Harry Morey Callahan in Detroit, the son of Harry Arthur Callahan, a farmer turned factory worker, and Hazel Mills Callahan. Between 1934 and 1936 he studied engineering at Michigan State University. In 1936 he married Eleanor Knapp and began working as a clerk for Chrysler Motor Parts Corporation....

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Capa, Robert (22 October 1913–25 May 1954), photographer, was born Endre Ernö Friedmann, in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Dezsö Friedmann and Julianna Henrietta Berkovits, proprietors of a fashionable dressmaking salon. Bandi, as Capa was called in his youth, attended the Imre Madàch Gymnasium. At fifteen he was introduced to documentary photography by his neighbor, Eva Besnyö, whom he accompanied while she photographed workers and the destitute. In 1929 he met the socialist artist and writer Lajos Kassàk, whose art journal ...

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Chamberlain, Samuel V. (28 Oct. 1895–10 Jan. 1975), graphic artist, photographer, and gourmet food writer, was born Samuel Vance Chamberlain in Cresco, Iowa, the son of Dr. George Ellsworth Chamberlain, a surgeon, and Cora Lee Summers. In 1901 the family moved to Aberdeen, Washington, where Chamberlain undertook his early education. In ...

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Coolidge, Dane (24 March 1873–08 August 1940), novelist, naturalist, and photographer, was born in Natick, Massachusetts, the son of Francis Coolidge, a corporal in the Civil War and, later, an orange grower in California, and Sophia Upham Whittemore. He moved with his family in 1877 to Los Angeles, where he roamed the fields and mountains around that still-small town and grew up a Republican and a Unitarian. Coolidge graduated from Stanford University in 1898, then studied biology at Harvard University from 1898 to 1899 before returning to the West....

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Crawford, Ralston (25 September 1906–27 April 1978), painter and photographer, was born George Ralston Crawford in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, the son of George Burson Crawford, a ship’s captain, and Lucy Colvin. In 1910 the family moved to Buffalo, New York, where Crawford grew up. In high school his flair for illustration drew encouragement from teachers; for two years following his graduation in 1924 he remained at the school to take additional art courses. In 1926 he shipped out from New York City on a United Fruit Company vessel and sailed on tramp steamers for a year until he decided to stay in Los Angeles to continue his training in art. After a brief stint at ...

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Debbie Griggs Carter and Lisabeth G. Svendsgaard

Cunningham, Imogen (12 April 1883–23 June 1976), photographer, was born in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Isaac Burns Cunningham, a farmer and small businessman, and Susan Elizabeth Johnson. Cunningham grew up the fifth of ten children in a poor working-class family. Most of her childhood was spent on her parents’ remote farm near Seattle, Washington. Getting an education was difficult due to the family’s isolation, but she succeeded in finishing high school. Before venturing off to college, Cunningham expressed to her father her interest in becoming a photographer. Even though he preferred teaching as a career for his daughter, Isaac Cunningham supported her choice and built a darkroom in their woodshed. By 1901 Cunningham had a 4″ ×  5″ camera and a book of instructions from the International Correspondence School in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She began developing pictures in the woodshed made light-tight by tar-papered walls....

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Curtis, Edward Sheriff (19 February 1868–19 October 1952), photographer, was born near Whitewater, Wisconsin, the son of Johnson Asahel Curtis, a poor farmer and part-time minister, and Ellen Sheriff. When he was a young boy, his family moved to Cordova, Minnesota, where he attended elementary school. Teaching himself photography with the help of popular manuals, Curtis took his first job with a St. Paul photographic studio. In 1887 he moved with his family to Sidney (now Port Orchard) on Puget Sound in Washington Territory. He settled in Seattle in 1891 and the following year married Clara J. Phillips; they had four children. After several years of partnerships, Curtis opened his own photography studio in 1897 and was soon highly sought after for his society portraits....

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Day, F. Holland (23 July 1864–06 November 1933), publisher, photographer, and bibliophile, was born Fred Holland Day in Norwood, Massachusetts, the son of Lewis Day, an industrialist, and Anna Smith. The only child of wealthy parents, young Day was educated largely by private tutors. The family split their time between their Norwood house and an apartment in Boston, at that time considered the Athens of America. At fifteen Day accompanied his mother to Denver, where she recuperated from a lung disease. It was in Denver that he made his first sustained contact with a large colony of Chinese, and their art and material culture made a lasting impact on him. He began to draw with Chinese inks and brushes and purchased many Chinese artifacts; he remained fascinated by Oriental culture to his dying day. This fascination was abetted by the world-class Oriental collections at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts....

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Draper, John William (05 May 1811–04 January 1882), scientist, educator, and historian, was born near Liverpool, England, the son of John Christopher Draper, an itinerant Wesleyan minister, and Sarah Ripley. Draper attended a Methodist grammar school and completed his premedical studies at University College, London, immersing himself in the philosophies of Benthamism and positivism, to which he would return later in life....

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Harold E. Edgerton Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103829).

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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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Eisenstaedt, Alfred (06 December 1898–23 August 1995), photographer and photojournalist, was born in Dirschau, West Prussia, a former German territory (today Tczew, Poland), the son of Joseph Eisenstaedt, a wealthy department store owner, and Regina Schoen. Little is known of Eisenstaedt’s early youth, but the family moved from Dirschau to Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1906. Eisenstaedt attended the local Hohenzollern Gymnasium. At the age of fourteen he received his first camera, an Eastman Folding Pocket Kodak, which was given to him as a birthday present by his uncle. While still a student Eisenstaedt started taking pictures as a hobby....

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Walker Evans Photograph by Edwin Locke, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USF33-004225-M4).