Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Photographer of Celebrities -- April 10, 2010

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde wrote the series of articles which gave this blog its name. Among his many accomplishments was taking some of the first Daguerreotypes in the United States. PH's son Henry Van Der Weyde served in the Union Army during the Civil War and later emigrated to England, where he became a popular photographer and a pioneer in taking photographs with artificial light.

This article, from the August, 1909 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, concerns PH's grandson, William Manley Van der Weyde, who followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and uncle. The author, Sadakichi Hartmann, was an American poet and critic of German and Japanese descent. The photo is from the December, 1898 Broadway Magazine.


W. M. Van Der Weyde is the journalist photographer par excellence. He is ready to photograph any person or object of interest. He does not care very much what or who it is, as long as it has some illustrative value. One day he may be sent out to discover a picturesque bit of Long Island, the next day he may climb the tower of the new East River bridge, and at the risk of his life take a new bird's-eye view, while the following day may see him busy at Pittsburg trying to secure a pictorial delineation of the glowing furnaces, smoke, and chimney stacks of one of the big mills.

He devotes a good deal of his time to portraiture, but he has no studio, and seldom fills orders for ordinary portraiture. He is in reach of celebrities. Every man and woman of note will sooner or later pass in review before his camera. Looking over his hundreds of portraits, one begins to doubt whether it is really such a great thing to be a celebrity, even if one's self is included among these soldiers of fame.

They are all done in a reportorial manner, straightforward, slightly artistic, commonplace at times, but always to the point; they give us a journalistic impression of the person represented. He strives for good composition, but circumstances do not always allow it; he has to make his pictures whenever he has the chance, no matter how bad the light or inadequate the surroundings may be. He has to get the likeness, that is the principal thing. It is worth five dollars and at times up to two hundred and fifty, as was the case with his Chauncey Depew, which was bought for advertising purposes.

The peculiar conditions under which he is obliged to make his pictures gives his figures something angular and crudely realistic. His "Everett Hale" is not short of being a masterpiece. Others are more indifferent, pictorially speaking. But they are always to the point, and mostly excellent character delineations.

Van der Weyde is a true cosmopolitan. He is a direct descendant from the famous Dutch painter Roger van der Weyde, and was born in Uruguay. His father was one of the first professionals in this country. Young Van der Weyde started as a reporter, then suddenly, ten years ago, without serving any apprenticeship whatever, he became a photographic reporter and has made it a successful profession. He has photographed one time or another nearly every object under the sun. He does not balk at any thing, and no obstacles are too big that he could not overcome them. But he is particularly fond of two subjects, celebrities and the night.

His night photographs belong to the best pictures I have seen of the kind. He has discovered for us a new beauty in the weird glare and glamour of nocturnal illuminations of metropolitan thoroughfares, railway scenes, and panoramic city views.

Sadakichi Hartmann.

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