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  #51  
Old 07-22-2018, 08:25 AM
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Many years ago, I found an obituary for Thompson that stated directly that he was not a photographer.


Here is a link to his New York Times obit:

https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/tim.../113120865.pdf









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Last edited by TCMA; 07-22-2018 at 08:34 AM.
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  #52  
Old 07-22-2018, 08:40 AM
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I believe the T205 images are spectacular and undervalued (disclosure: I own about a dozen and bought some in Hunt). It's my conjecture that they were taken expressly for the T205 set, which may explain in part why they represent such ground-breaking portraiture for their time.

I think the onus is on anyone asserting that Thompson took the images for which his agency is credited: find a contemporary reference. Conlon left mountains of evidence that he was a photographer--he entered his images into competitions, he wrote articles, he granted interviews. If Thompson was a photographer, there's a mention of it somewhere.

Edited to add: just saw the New York Times obituary. I don't think we're going to get a clearer statement than this: "Many people naturally assumed that Mr. Thompson was, or had been, an expert cameraman himself, but such was not the case." Thanks for finding it, Andrew.

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  #53  
Old 07-22-2018, 09:49 AM
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My reference to recent craze was to contrast it to the 80’s and 90’s, what I thought was obvious was apparently not. So there is no misunderstanding I think photographs identified as Paul Thompson are fantastic and among the best. In fact in the Baseball Magazine sale I believe I paid then record prices for lots of Thompson photos. Oh the good old days.
Thanks for the obituary.
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  #54  
Old 07-22-2018, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by sphere and ash View Post
Edited to add: just saw the New York Times obituary. I don't think we're going to get a clearer statement than this: "Many people naturally assumed that Mr. Thompson was, or had been, an expert cameraman himself, but such was not the case." Thanks for finding it, Andrew.

No problemo. Totally in agreement that the vast majority of Paul Thompson stamped photos were not shot by him. Still, the obit indicates that he did a shoot with Mark Twain and the Smithsonian article I linked to previously claims the copyrights for the T205 portraits alone are under his name. This is all certainly worthy of further investigation:






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  #55  
Old 07-22-2018, 10:16 AM
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Wow. That is an interesting obit.

I do notice one thing about the obit and the Smithsonian article. Neither says absolutely that he did or did not take photos himself.

In the smithsonian article regarding the T205s...
"The gold borders sported another enhancement—portraits based on a remarkable series of contemplative close-ups by a New York City-based freelance photographer named Paul Thompson. Thompson, who built his reputation and his studio on a sitting with Mark Twain, would hire others to take pictures for him, but the gold-border portraits are attributed to him because they alone are copyrighted under his name."

To me this means, they assume he took them because no one else was given credit, not because someone has specific proof he did. This conclusion, which in many ways is a reasonable and logical one to make, is clearly disproven by the story towards the end of the obit about the boat race. This clearly shows photos taken by others were not just released, but were published, under his name.

Second, In the obit...
"Many people naturally assumed that Mr. Thompson was, or had been, an expert cameraman himself, but such was not the case. His success in developing his business came from his ability to select able associates, several of whom started their careers with him as office boys."

Now this does not say he never took photos. He obviously took the Twain ones. I assume he took many others, but there is no way to know for sure how many. Additionally, there is no way to know which one were specifically taken by him vs his employees.

When you put this information together, the only absolute conclusion you can make is that other photographers took at least some of the photos credited to Paul Thompson.
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  #56  
Old 07-22-2018, 04:50 PM
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I've been thinking about the sentence, "the gold-border portraits are attributed to him because they alone are copyrighted under his name," and it doesn't make sense. Just because you hold a copyright doesn't mean that you're the artist. All it means is that Thompson was the employer or commissioning party.

I respectfully disagree with Lordstan that the most one can say is that other photographers took some Thompson agency images. There is no evidence at all that Thompson took a single image after he started his agency. Quite to the contrary, The New York Times made it a point to note that Thompson was not an "expert cameraman" and that the success of his business depended on "able associates."

By the way, I actually sold all of my Thompson portraits today while contributing to this thread (to a fellow board member), so this opinion was not in my economic interest. It's just something I've thought about for many years.
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  #57  
Old 07-22-2018, 11:11 PM
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Here are the ones I got at Hunt Auctions. All Charles Conlon’s 8x10’s. Love the Ira Thomas with the Ads on the back!
Also looking for the winner of lots #262 & 493. I’m interested if you want to trade or sell. Andy

Last edited by PSACJ; 07-22-2018 at 11:18 PM.
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  #58  
Old 07-23-2018, 09:50 AM
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This conversation has certainly gotten me thinking about the early baseball photographers and what we really know about them.

With some of the famous photographers there are stories as well as photos of them taking photos, leaving no doubt;e.g-Charles Conlon, the Frances Burke/George Burke connection, Horner's portraits. I haven't heard stories about Van Oeyen, but his images are consistent than in terms of composition and general feel. Even George Bain photos generally have a typical look and feel;i.e-you see some photos and know they are Bain images, as opposed to the images he pilfered. But as collectors we know he ran a news agency and that a 'Bain' that doesn't look like a Bain probably isn't.

Thompson has groups of photos that appear to be taken by the same photographer;e.g-a lot of his images of players batting or fielding have a Thompson 'look'. The T205 portraits also have a common look, but what struck me when I first saw the large Hunt group was that the portraits didn't look like they were taken by the same guy who did the action shots. Some of that I'm sure is because portraits have different requirements (depth of field, facial expressions) that action shots don't; however, I think Conlons portraits and action shots have more in common.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that two different photographers did the T205 portraits and the action shots.
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  #59  
Old 07-23-2018, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sphere and ash View Post
I've been thinking about the sentence, "the gold-border portraits are attributed to him because they alone are copyrighted under his name," and it doesn't make sense. Just because you hold a copyright doesn't mean that you're the artist. All it means is that Thompson was the employer or commissioning party.
I think we are saying the same thing here. The story about the boat race clearly shows that photos were published under his name that he did not take.

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I respectfully disagree with Lordstan that the most one can say is that other photographers took some Thompson agency images. There is no evidence at all that Thompson took a single image after he started his agency. Quite to the contrary, The New York Times made it a point to note that Thompson was not an "expert cameraman" and that the success of his business depended on "able associates."
Well. I can understand your point. I think we are talking about semantics here. Having success "depending on able body associates" is not the same as not taking any photos at all. If he took only 1%, or for that matter even only 1, of the photos then the statement in the Obit is still true. I hold by my conclusion in that there is no doubt that others took photos for him, but there is nothing stated or implied that he never took ANY.

All of this is, of course, focusing on the minutiae of semantics. The reality is that Thompson photos are pretty great regardless of who took them. Considering that many seem to share the same aesthetic, it is likely that he had one main photographer who did the bulk of his work.
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  #60  
Old 07-23-2018, 11:03 AM
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Van Oeyen is my favorite and is essentially the opposite of what we have been discussing here on Paul Thompson and George Grantham Bain. Louis Van Oeyen was a skilled photographer who never outsourced that I am aware of and in fact, the opposite is true in his case. I would venture to guess (just a guess) Van Oeyen himself clicked the shutter on his camera half a million times in his long career. Little of his actual work though is credited as he worked as a staff photographer for the majority of his career and only stamped his own photographs when he was freelancing or during short breaks when he worked for himself. He was a staff photographer at NEA and Acme and his works from that period are uncredited.

I have long told people that early sports photographers that we hold in such high esteem today were not looked at as anything special in their own day. I think this adds to their appeal and mystery, sort of like Van Gogh. In 1915 if you had gone looking for the "great" Charles Conlon, you would have likely found him in the corner on the fifth floor of the Evening Telegram building with many of the other employees not even knowing who he was, but today we talk about him in reverent tones like he was a celebrity. I actually think Conlon's work is pretty average after WWI. He turned from a skilled photographer to the Walmart of baseball photography, with volume being the key as his job was to make money, not art. These guys in general were pretty low paid and were just trying to survive like everyone else. There is no evidence that a sports photographer was paid anything above any other photographer at a newspaper, but this would actually make for a fun research project!

There is often huge gaps in these guys lives we know nothing about, probably because they were broke and had to take jobs on assignment photographing local spelling bees and society events for newspapers and were just one of a sea of photographers with badges on their jackets. Even Carl Horner whose baseball photographs we hold in such high regard, as important as he was, was a classically trained portrait photographer and his images of ballplayers are not significantly better than the stacks of other portraits at any antique show in America. Dont get me wrong, he was good. But nobody would mention the name Carl Horner today had he not lucked into an assignment to take photographs of ballplayers in uniform.

What little we know about these guys is what makes this hobby fun and exciting, but not one early baseball photographer transcended his craft in his own time.

Having said all the above, I love these old guys and their cameras from 100 years ago and the fact we know so little about them is typical of photographers, so much of their work was behind a camera, they RARELY posed on the other side of one!
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  #61  
Old 07-23-2018, 01:03 PM
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I think we are saying the same thing here. The story about the boat race clearly shows that photos were published under his name that he did not take.



Well. I can understand your point. I think we are talking about semantics here. Having success "depending on able body associates" is not the same as not taking any photos at all. If he took only 1%, or for that matter even only 1, of the photos then the statement in the Obit is still true. I hold by my conclusion in that there is no doubt that others took photos for him, but there is nothing stated or implied that he never took ANY.
Exactly This.

The obit clearly states he was a photographer. It also clearly states he took pictures of Twain which started it all. The possibility of him then taking ZERO is not a possibility IMO. It is certainly NOT fact/clearly stated. Paul Thompson was a photographer and the photos credited to him/his agency are amazing.
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  #62  
Old 07-23-2018, 02:17 PM
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I also feel like as the owner of the company, whether Thompson clicked the shutter or not, he was at the very LEAST responsible for directing the guys who took the photos on what he wanted, hiring the best photographers to represent his name, and in charge of quality control to make sure the finished product was to his specifications. That is a big deal.
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  #63  
Old 07-23-2018, 08:21 PM
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Glad I picked this 1912 Marquard up it has become one of my favorites. I wonder what Rube was up too.
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  #64  
Old 07-23-2018, 10:04 PM
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Rhys, you make a great point about the waning quality of Conlon's output, and I want to make sure it gets its due. Conlon had five particularly productive years, from 1911-1916. After that, in my view, his worked declined substantially in quality. It may be that the ballplayers with whom he had first developed relationships were retiring or that he was competing increasingly with larger staffs of newspaper photographers, making access and relationship-building more difficult.

I also want to point out that I believe it was the Thompson agency's T205 images that turned Conlon into a portrait photographer. Remarkably, Conlon didn't take a single portrait during his first seven years as a baseball photographer. It's astounding to think about that, but it demonstrates how thoroughly Conlon was driven by his assignments. It was the publication of the T205 images in Spalding's Guide in 1910 and the Guide's desire to continue with non-studio portraiture that led to Conlon's portrait assignments. As good as Cobb sliding into Jimmy Austin is (and it was Conlon's favorite), it's for his portraiture that Conlon is remembered.
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  #65  
Old 07-24-2018, 07:20 AM
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This is why you have to read all the threads, this one has the great photo pickups, but it also great info on photographers. Good discussion, thank you all.
Hope those interested in Thompson etc hear of it.
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  #66  
Old 07-24-2018, 07:30 AM
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This is why you have to read all the threads, this one has the great photo pickups, but it also great info on photographers. Good discussion, thank you all.
Hope those interested in Thompson etc hear of it.
It certainly confirms Paul Thompson was a photographer once and for all. Thanks for obit Andrew!

If anyone has T205 images or any other Great Paul Thomspsons for sale, Please pm me. I am always looking for high end baseball photography. Congrats all of those who picked up photos. Would like to see more!
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  #67  
Old 07-24-2018, 07:38 AM
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Default Good news for collectors

At least one major collector from the olden days that I know will be testing the waters soon. I expect there will be plenty of great images to go around in the next few years and I think newer collectors will be surprised at what is out there.
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  #68  
Old 07-24-2018, 07:42 AM
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We’ll have to agree to disagree, Ben. Enjoyed the discussion about Thompson.
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  #69  
Old 07-24-2018, 07:54 AM
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We’ll have to agree to disagree, Ben. Enjoyed the discussion about Thompson.
Fair enough, it def paid off for Me. Thanks for letting go of your Paul Thompson gems.
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  #70  
Old 07-24-2018, 11:16 AM
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The info you guys are sharing is awesome - most I've learned about photographers in years.

Is there anywhere we can read more about Conlon's life?
Also, common sense tells me that most, if not all, of the T205 portraits were taken by the same photographer, that he was one of the best of his era, and that it's extremely unlikely that he would be unknown. Lacking any other names I will go ahead and call him 'Paul Thompson'.

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  #71  
Old 07-24-2018, 11:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Runscott View Post
The info you guys are sharing is awesome - most I've learned about photographers in years.

Is there anywhere we can read more about Conlon's life?
Also, common sense tells me that most, if not all, of the T205 portraits were taken by the same photographer, that he was one of the best of his era, and that it's extremely unlikely that he would be unknown. Lacking any other names I will go ahead and call him 'Paul Thompson'.
On December 14 1917, Charles Conlon was elected to the finance committee of the NY Herald-Telegram newspaper’s chapel for the 1918 year. Charles also held the position through 1919, as his December 12 1918 election was uncontested.
Although I have seen him wearing a hat in only one photo; apparently he wore many.
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  #72  
Old 07-24-2018, 12:02 PM
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We’ll have to agree to disagree, Ben. Enjoyed the discussion about Thompson.
I don't want to discourage your posting, but......

Who are you? You're the only member without a name.
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  #73  
Old 07-24-2018, 12:05 PM
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Great thread....this is what makes Net54 the very best place for learning about vintage sports memorabilia. Thanks to all that have shared their knowledge.


Jeff
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  #74  
Old 07-24-2018, 12:25 PM
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Hadn't put the actual images of my winnings from Hunt.

Frank Chance by Paul Thompson



Pair of Wilbert Robinson



Wilbert Robinson by Conlon



Bill Klem by Conlon



Tommy Connolly by Conlon



Another Klem Conlon



The Cobb Brunners Bread image

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Old 07-24-2018, 12:38 PM
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I am sure this has already been mentioned somewhere, but "Paul Thompson" somehow had correspondents overseas during WWI and some of the best images I have seen from the Western Front were stamped by him and then by a multitude of censors and foreign entities before they made their way back to the United States. This is why I think his baseball images disappear from 1916/17-1920. Not only do his baseball images disappear, but it appears his company COMPLETELY shifted to the War! I think he either abandoned his company here for the more lucrative job of taking pictures of the war OR his photographers did their duty and left and Thompson rolled with the punches. We will probably never know for sure, but that explains why he was fairly prolific for a while and then stopped only to re-emerge about the time he took those amazing images of Ruth!
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Old 07-24-2018, 12:47 PM
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Regarding Thompson, I think some detailed analysis could be done to give us a better idea of how many photographers were involved in the T205 project. My initial thought was that most were taken by one person, just because of look, feel, technique. You can look at a Conlon portrait and see characteristics such as depth-of-field, background, etc., that he favored and I'm sure the same could be done for the T205 portraits. We have plenty of examples just from the Hunt auction, plus the great ones that were missing such as Mathewson, Cy Young and a few others.

The other thing that could be done is grouping the non-portrait posed images and looking for 'outliers'. I can already think of two images I'm waiting to arrive that don't look like my other Thompson images;i.e-don't have what I consider the unique 'Thompson' look. Obviously there are images across photographers that look alike, or within a single photographer's work that don't look 'normal' for him, but I'm talking 'in general'. I'll see what I can come up with and post results in a separate thread.

I was really interested when I saw 'Sphere and Ash's initial post about Thompson. I had always thought that the posed images and portraits looked like the works of two separate photographers, but more than two? It's certainly gotten me thinking...and I'm not trying to fight or argue, just learn more.
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Old 07-24-2018, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
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The info you guys are sharing is awesome - most I've learned about photographers in years.

Is there anywhere we can read more about Conlon's life?'.
The McCabes have written two books about Conlon, as you probably know. I contributed a chapter about Conlon to a book titled Subway Series, edited by Tom Finkelpearl, about 15 years ago, that accompanied an exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

I would note a few things about Conlon’s life:

—he fell into baseball photography by accident, thanks to a relationship he had with John B. Foster, later editor of Spalding’s Guide and Secretary of the Giants.

—his work was overwhelmingly driven by the needs of his patrons, The Evening Telegram, Baseball Magazine, and Spalding’s Guide. The only work he ever produced for himself, in my view, were his close-up studies of eyes and hands (disclosure: this is the heart of my photography collection).

—Conlon was Irish, as were a very large number of ballplayers. I would speculate that this helped him gain acceptance into the community he would document for 40 years, but it’s just speculation.

—Conlon had strong personal relationships with several players, particularly McGraw and Matty. Having Matty and McGraw as intermediaries must have made it easier to gain the trust of other ballplayers.

—he had a period of incredible creativity, starting in 1911 when Spalding’s Guide began assigning him to do portraiture, and ending about 1916.

—Conlon entered photo competitions with images of Central Park and bears in zoos. Similarly, he thought his “masterpiece” was Cobb sliding into Austin. He seems to have been unaware of the significance of his baseball portraiture.

—Conlon was a lifelong union man who represented the “Big Six” typographical union as an officer on more than one occasion.

—Conlon photographed baseball for about 40 years, which is an incredibly long time to stay committed to a single subject.
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Old 07-24-2018, 02:28 PM
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Default Conlon info

Runscott, in addition to Sphere and ash’s info above, I recall once owning an early photography magazine, that had a an article by Conlan about taking baseball/sports photographs. I must have found a cite for it somewhere, possibly the bibliography of the first Mcabe book. Once you have the cite, it should be easier to find than it was 25 years ago.
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Old 07-24-2018, 03:10 PM
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The McCabes have written two books about Conlon, as you probably know. I contributed a chapter about Conlon to a book titled Subway Series, edited by Tom Finkelpearl, about 15 years ago, that accompanied an exhibition at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

I would note a few things about Conlon’s life:

—he fell into baseball photography by accident, thanks to a relationship he had with John B. Foster, later editor of Spalding’s Guide and Secretary of the Giants.

—his work was overwhelmingly driven by the needs of his patrons, The Evening Telegram, Baseball Magazine, and Spalding’s Guide. The only work he ever produced for himself, in my view, were his close-up studies of eyes and hands (disclosure: this is the heart of my photography collection).

—Conlon was Irish, as were a very large number of ballplayers. I would speculate that this helped him gain acceptance into the community he would document for 40 years, but it’s just speculation.

—Conlon had strong personal relationships with several players, particularly McGraw and Matty. Having Matty and McGraw as intermediaries must have made it easier to gain the trust of other ballplayers.

—he had a period of incredible creativity, starting in 1911 when Spalding’s Guide began assigning him to do portraiture, and ending about 1916.

—Conlon entered photo competitions with images of Central Park and bears in zoos. Similarly, he thought his “masterpiece” was Cobb sliding into Austin. He seems to have been unaware of the significance of his baseball portraiture.

—Conlon was a lifelong union man who represented the “Big Six” typographical union as an officer on more than one occasion.

—Conlon photographed baseball for about 40 years, which is an incredibly long time to stay committed to a single subject.
Thanks for the info. Do you have more on Conlon? Also, can you post a link to your contribution to the Subway Series book which you referenced? I would like to read more.
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Old 07-24-2018, 04:37 PM
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Tremendous stuff. Definitely stoking the collecting urge fire.
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Old 07-24-2018, 05:25 PM
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Old 07-24-2018, 06:47 PM
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Has anyone else NOT received their Hunt Invoice yet??
I got mine but it's been stuck in my junk folder in the past.
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Old 07-24-2018, 06:51 PM
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Runscott, in addition to Sphere and ash’s info above, I recall once owning an early photography magazine, that had a an article by Conlan about taking baseball/sports photographs. I must have found a cite for it somewhere, possibly the bibliography of the first Mcabe book. Once you have the cite, it should be easier to find than it was 25 years ago.
I think the article you’re referring to is “The Base Ball Photographer,” which appeared in The Photographic Times in 1913.

The essay I wrote for Subway Series is not available online, but used copies are available on Amazon. I don’t have more information to share presently, but I’m happy to share what I know if you have any particular questions.

As to how many photographers the Paul Thompson agency employed, I don’t see how it can be less than dozens. To meet the needs of newspapers all over the country, you would need photographers in every major city—and over decades.

Last edited by sphere and ash; 07-24-2018 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 07-24-2018, 07:14 PM
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This is a great discussion, I agree.

It makes me wonder about the whole idea of creativity in sports photography. We think of these older "masters" as creating photos with an eye for some artistic aesthetic. I think the more I learn, the more it appears that they really were just guys taking photos to make money based on either current events that they could sell or specific assignments they were hired for. The artistic nature of the photos for the T205s are a good example. While everyone marvels are their beauty, the reality might have been that the tobacco manufacturer may have just asked for close up head shots that would fit the card medium. That requirement, along with the usual equipment of the day wound up creating the aesthetic that was produced. It makes me wonder if it may not have been some esoteric artistic decision made by the photograper(s).
It seems like the more modern photographers, like Iooss, might have more of a purposeful creative effort to their photos to make something beautiful rather than just something to run in a newspaper.
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Old 07-24-2018, 07:16 PM
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This is a great discussion, I agree.

It makes me wonder about the whole idea of creativity in sports photography. We think of these older "masters" as creating photos with an eye for some artistic aesthetic. I think the more I learn, the more it appears that they really were just guys taking photos to make money based on either current events that they could sell or specific assignments they were hired for. The artistic nature of the photos for the T205s are a good example. While everyone marvels are their beauty, the reality might have been that the tobacco manufacturer may have just asked for close up head shots that would fit the card medium. That requirement, along with the usual equipment of the day wound up creating the aesthetic that was produced. It makes me wonder if it may not have been some esoteric artistic decision made by the photograper(s).
It seems like the more modern photographers, like Iooss, might have more of a purposeful creative effort to their photos to make something beautiful rather than just something to run in a newspaper.
Well yes... that is pretty much exactly what happened. These guys were not celebs.. they were guns for hire. That said, i think they still took pride in their work.
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Old 07-24-2018, 07:27 PM
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I think artistic intent is secondary. Chuck Close once said that photography is the only medium in which it is possible to have an accidental masterpiece. I think that makes things more exciting rather than less so. It means the photograph you covet could be in any box or album, as yet undiscovered.

Last edited by sphere and ash; 07-24-2018 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 07-24-2018, 08:07 PM
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I think artistic intent is secondary. Chuck Close once said that photography is the only medium in which it is possible to have an accidental masterpiece.
I believe they went hand in hand. In 1910 there were many more components to taking a picture than there are now, and it took a lot longer. A good portrait photographer knew how to use depth of field, lighting, exposure, background and how to evoke a good expression. It was just as easy to do these things well as to do them as a hack would.

Sure, a hack will get an accidental masterpiece and a great photographer will shoot an entire roll that he thinks will be great, then get back a pile of garbage;however, there is a reason we collect Conlons and not Joe Schmoes.
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Old 07-24-2018, 08:11 PM
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Sure, a hack will get an accidental masterpiece and a great photographer will shoot an entire roll that he thinks will be great, then get back a pile of garbage;however, there is a reason we collect Conlons and not Joe Schmoes.
Well, I do have a photo by a Dork.
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