Wilbur H. Porterfield (1873-1958), Untitled, c. 1905; carbon print on paper, 6 11/16 x 13 15/16 inches; Art Acquisition Fund, 2013
This photograph was exhibited in The Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo, a traveling exhibition organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in cooperation with Media Study/Buffalo and co-curated by Anthony Bannon and Douglas G. Schultz. It premiered at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Oct. 3-Nov. 8, 1981 and then traveled to the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It is one of 70 extant images.
In April 1906, eight members of the Buffalo Camera Club broke away to found their own group to advance Pictorial photography. Having been inspired by New York artist Alfred Stieglitz and his Photo-Secession, they held similar goals to achieve artistic legitimacy for the new medium by creating photographs that exhibited many of the same characteristics associated with painting. They manipulated images to achieve atmospheric, Impressionist qualities, even to the extent of applying soft, pastel colors to their photographic prints. Their subject matter also aligned with academic paintings of the late 19th century, such as landscapes, Romantic views of peasants, and portraits. The original members of the Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo were Oscar C. Anthony, Charles Booz, Will A. Hatch, G. Edwin Keller, Samuel S. Lloyd, Wilbur H. Porterfield, John M. Schreck, and Edward B. Sides.
Wilbur Heber Porterfield, who held elected office in Buffalo Camera Club before be withdrew to found the Photo-Pictorialists, “assumed the role of correspondent for the group.” He gained an international reputation for his style of photography that often portrayed the Western New York landscape. In 1921 Porterfield was hired by The Buffalo Courier to produce weekly photographs for a new rotogravure section. His Japanese approach to picture composition and poetic landscape subjects quickly became a popular feature. The Sunday Courier-Express continued publishing his rotogravure photographs in a pictorial spread called “As Porterfield Sees It” until his death in 1958, and continued to publish his photographs for more than a decade afterwards.