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Studios, Campbell

Time Period: 
538 Fifth Avenue, New York City

Campbell Studios was founded by Alfred S. Campbell (1840-1912) in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Campbell, an early English proponent of art photography, was invited to the United States in 1867 by Napolean Sarony to form a business partnership under the Sarony name. Sarony particularly desired access to Campbell's patented photographic processes. Campbell, who served as manager of Sarony & Company, grew to dislike Sarony's penchant for self-celebration. The relationship frayed until the partnership was dissolved in April 1871.

Campbell initially set up a rival portrait studio under his own name. More adept at the technical dimensions of image production than posing, he eventually sought a partner with greater skills in superintending sittings, finding Frank H. Price.  Price & Campbell's studio operated at 680 Broadway from 1879-81, while Campbell lived in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. The profits, however, were insufficient for a man of Campbell's ambition.  He dissolved the partnership and determined to build a state of the art photographic print facility in Elizabethtown. He did not stint, and built the largest mass reproduction plant in the United States. By the latter 1880s, Campbell had monopolized the cigarette card trade, printing the picture photo cards of all the rival labels.

On October 3, 1892, John Walton, the foreman of Campbell's production shop, burned the studio down to hide his theft of the silver being used in the manufacture of photographic paper. The loss to the business was $30,000. Walton and his accomplices were arrested. Campbell rebuilt and was soon flourishing once again.

Campbell realized that recognition within the photographic profession required more than success in the mechanical reproduction of images - innovation in photographic equipment and processes mattered. He never ceased inventing during the course of his active career, creating a panorama lens that made his landscape images more encompassing than those of Brady and Gardner. He delved into paper manufacture and printing techniques that gave photographic images embossed relief. Artistry mattered as well. His photographically illustrated edition of the Bible, featuring pictures taken in the Holy Land, was greeted as a hugely significant publishing event. He named his business the "Campbell Art Company" to stress the importance of aesthetics and made the reproduction of paintings and other works of fine arts a central endeavor.

With the rise of photographic aestheticism at the end of the 19th century, Alfred Campbell realized that his business needed to be more actively engaged in the production of original images. To this end he authorized the opening of a New York branch of the business specializing in portraiture and art photography. William A. Morand, whose father worked with Arthur Campbell in the early 1870s, opened Campbell Studio, New York, in 1900 on 538 5th Avenue. Morand belonged to an old New York family and used his social connections to build the studio into one of the strongest in Manhattan. Trained as a fine artist, and tutored in the art of photography by his father, George Henry Morand, William was among the most refined of the professional portraitists in the city until his death in 1909.

From Morand's death until 1915 the New York Studio was managed by Rudolf Eickemeyer, the prize winning pictorialist. Under his direction the studio developed its interest in theatrical photography. When Eickemeyer departed in 1915 to set up his own business, Campbell Studio continued as a force in entertainment photography, under the direction of Arthur F. Rice. The Studio was one of the innovators in the new style of celebrity portraiture. On March 1, 1925, it took a corporate charter, capitalized for $25,000. Although it remained an active society portrait studio through the 1930s, its years as a force in the entertainment market were over by 1928.

Notes: "Both Foremen in Plot, How Campbell's Picture Factory was Robbed and Burned." New York Times (Oct 4, 1892), 1. "A.S. Campbell, Photographer, Dead." NYT (Aug 8, 1912) 9. David S. Shields/ALS


The New York branch of Campbell Studios was one of the active celebrity portrait studios in the 1900s to early 1920s. Its forte was the half length portrait photo of stage or screen stars in fashionable modern dress. It regularly supplied photographs to The Theatre and to movie magazines. There may have been two or more staff photographers shooting clients, for the style of portraiture varies from static poses shot in natural light to fanciful fashion poses.