PhotoSeed, representing an evolving online record of this early fine-art photography movement, is a private archive with simple goals: beauty, truth, scholarship and enjoyment for all who visit.
The argument over whether photography should be considered an art form seems laughable to us today. Yet, beginning in the 1880s and lasting into the 20th century, members of amateur photographic clubs and societies the world over deemed the topic of artistic photography worthy of a decades-long shouting match. With several notable exceptions, photographic imagery in the 19th century was utilitarian in purpose—documenting people and places—and usually for a fee. Aesthetic stagnation and conformity was often the result. Market forces toward the end of the century changed this. A new syntax emerged in the language of photography with the introduction of the dry plate, advanced cameras and lenses, experimental printing techniques and other innovations. Photographers—including inspired hobbyists, rich amateurs and enlightened professionals—were encouraged by this progress. In turn, their work and the advancements made in photography were chronicled for a larger audience in the photographic press of the day. Artistic photography, a movement begun over 120 years ago, was the result of this progress and it continues as a force inspiring modern day practitioners.
PhotoSeed, having received honors in the press including a prestigious Webby award since our launch in July, 2011, represents an evolving online record of this early fine-art photography movement. But most importantly, we are a private archive with simple goals, namely: beauty, truth, scholarship and enjoyment for all who visit. A rich collection of photographs representing numerous vintage processes will be found here. From delicate platinum to exquisite hand-pulled photogravures, images produced singularly or published in portfolios and journals, as well as vintage source material, this resource will reward the intrepid or curious.
About the curator and site owner: David Spencer
Photographic historian, curator, author, collector and former newspaper photojournalist David Spencer has finally returned to his native New England after spending the past three decades working at some of the finest picture newspapers in the United States. These included the Palm Beach Post, the former Pittsburgh Press and The State Journal-Register in Illinois, among others. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, he has had a love affair with all things photographic going back to childhood. These were the days when the old Life magazine was still delivered in the mail weekly and excitement, inspiration and magic were all the result following a trip to the town drugstore. That was when picking up a package of family photos were actually printed and always included a separate compartment for the developed negatives, proof the invisible really could become visible after a roll of film was dropped off for processing the week before.
Throughout his working career he has garnered numerous awards including being named a three-time recipient of Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association as well as a photo team member honored as finalist for the Pulitzer Prize while in Florida. For a further trip down memory lane, check out some of “Spencevision’s” work from the last decade here and a summary of his working philosophy while in newspapers and earlier work here.
Spencer’s goals for PhotoSeed are simple: to call attention to the photographic work of this era, through an accessible format understandable to all visitors, and presented with thorough academic research and appropriate citations for the purpose of establishing a more concise historical record. By harnessing the power and reach of the Web, he hopes to create a broader world-wide discussion and re-evaluation for this material. He looks forward to your input, suggestions and criticisms for the purpose of improving PhotoSeed for all who visit.
Mark Katzman: If I had not met Mark, PhotoSeed would surely have always been just a dream. A commercial photographer based in St. Louis, Mark’s infectious spirit and positive energy make him, not only a role model as a human being, father and husband, but someone I’m proud to call a friend. His Art of the Photogravure website is one of great beauty, and the ultimate online destination for those seeking to learn about the history of this all-but-forgotten process that has played a crucial role in the evolution of fine art photography and photography itself. To that end, we humbly submit for consideration PhotoSeed as its sister site in spirit.
Tyler Craft: Just like any meaningful and lasting relationship, there is really no point in building something in the online world, especially one devoted to the history of humankind’s creative achievement, without someone truly believing in that purpose from the outset. A user interface engineer at Facebook in San Francisco, Tyler didn’t flinch when I first met him and sheepishly threw out my idea for this website. That idea took four years to blossom in the form of PhotoSeed. Patience is certainly a virtue, but talent will always be the key to success. Tyler has both and, fortunately for us, in large supply. A respect and love for artistic historical photography have been guiding principals in his building PhotoSeed’s site architecture from the ground up.
Jay David: Creativity never has limits and Jay knows this instinctively. What he finds inspiring in the visual realm of human achievement, a sampling of which can be gleaned from poking around his own website, has only fueled success in his professional endeavors. As Interactive Creative Director at TOKY in St. Louis, his creative enlightenment solves problems. With regard to his work on this site, I can sum it up simply by saying beating people over the head is, thankfully, not his style. Without a doubt, Jay’s beautiful, understated design, and custom typography for PhotoSeed has enabled the work in our archive to become the true star of the show.
Luminous Lint : To say Alan Griffiths is excited about the history of photography is a gross understatement. Alan’s website Luminous Lint is a world-wide collaborative effort documenting the entire history of the medium from soup to nuts. Before establishing a permanent home at PhotoSeed, our former incarnation as the Spencer Photographic Archive was an early contributor to Luminous Lint’s Pictorialism-themed exhibitions.
Shannon O’Brien: Fortunately for you, dear reader, PhotoSeed has its very own language lover and grammarian for yours truly to bounce his often deluded sense of what website copy should actually look and sound like before pressing the publish key. Shannon, spouse and muse, might have reeled me in with her exceptional photography skills and lovely smile, but I’m convinced her ton of real-world experience including writing, copy-editing, and love of new media will push PhotoSeed in all the right directions. A social media strategist and assistant editor at Williams College in Massachusetts, Shannon swears to me our dogs (Lucy and Jojo) come in a distant second as the loves of her life. I’m not always convinced.
To Mom and Dad: As a child, among other things, I blamed you for: every year journeying into the city to visit the Metropolitan while being told by you games of three-card Monte should always be avoided-this while my own attentions were more concerned with inhaling the mysterious smell of roasting chestnuts on snowy street corners; Are-we-there-yet hikes up Mount Monadnock to witness New England’s blazing colors; teaching me to appreciate the classical sounds at Klein Auditorium, and in Stratford and elsewhere, providing me with countless opportunities to not understand Shakespeare performed live. I might not have always understood why we did all this together, but now I see, and I want to thank you for caring enough to take the time for us to do it in the first place. I can only hope my own daughter will blame me someday for similar experiences.
With the purpose being enjoyment, scholarship, and study, all photographs and content contained on this site are copyrighted by the artist or their estate and are protected by International & U.S. copyright, trademark, and other laws. All Rights Reserved. Artists survive from their copyright, which represents their creativity. Please respect their rights by not copying or otherwise using their work without their permission.
No part of PhotoSeed, including content found on the site in the form of photographs, graphics and text, may be taken via any third-party retrieval system for monetary gain unless authorized in writing by site owner David Spencer. Sharing site content via social media through embedded links found on PhotoSeed (Facebook, Pinterest, Lightbox, etc.) are solely intended for user enjoyment and or scholarship. Please consult PhotoSeed or the copyright owner for exceptions.
David Spencer : inquiries: admin@PhotoSeed.com
Licensing agreements for commercial use are in some cases available. Contact us for details.