An Old Salt

An Old Salt

The following biography of Arthur Dresser appears in the May 18, 1894 issue and runs from pp. 310-12:

V.A. R. Dresser.


Arthur R. Dresser was born in 1846, in Yorkshire, England. His early years from 1857 to 1862 were spent in traveling about India, Africa, and among the numerous little islands dotted round between these countries and England, i.e., Madeira, St Helena, Ascension, Ceylon, etc. In 1862 he went to Canada and remained in that country and in the Western States till 1875. He traveled all over Canada, Minnesota and Dakota, and spent three years among the Indians west of Fort Garry. It is greatly to be regretted that during all these years of travel he had never learned to photograph or carried a camera. Indeed, it was not until some years after, when he had returned to England and settled down to a quiet married life.


His taking up with the art of photography came about in rather a curious way. It was in 1883 when he had a bad attack of a nervous disease. His physician strongly advised him to get some hobby to occupy time. Being himself an ardent amateur the worthy doctor recommended photography. Following his adviser’s and counsels he purchased a camera and soon fell deeply in love with the photographic art. Having nothing else to do he worked hard at his hobby. In the same year he joined the Photographic Society of Great Britain, and endeavored to look around him to see what kind of work was being done. He was one of the first (if not the first) to start the idea of the present Camera Club in London. He was the first to act as its Secretary, and for a long time held the position of a Director of the Club.


For the first year or so his photographic work was not above the average, but he was by no means the man to give up in despair. After about two years work he purchased a hand camera and struck out in a new field. He soon showed what could be done with a good hand camera, and enlarging the results up to 10 x 18, 12 x 10, and even larger, on bromide paper, usually the rough kind. There can be little doubt that the increased demand at that time for hand cameras was due to him, for not only did he show its capabilities in his work, but he did much in his writings to the various year books to popularize it.


He very soon earned a reputation for being a “hand camera man.” Every picture that he exhibited, except 3 or 4 direct prints, was an enlargement from a negative taken by one of these instruments. No other class of work was shown by him except lantern-slides. This is another branch of photography in which he takes a great interest, and with which he has succeeded in reaching the front rank. His private stock of slides numbers over 2,000. His little work “Lantern Slides, and How to Make Them,” has had a very great sale in this country.


Mr. Dresser first began to exhibit in 1890, and in the next three years obtained no less than 110 awards, viz., 7 gold, 30 silver, and 36 bronze medals together with 37 certificates. These were awarded at numerous exhibitions, including the Pall Mall (London, 1892), Vienna, India, Boston, etc. There can be little doubt that this speaks well for his hand camera and the methods of enlarging that he adopts. The camera, it may be mentioned, is one made after his own directions, and he was the one to bring out the very rough bromide papers which are now having such a great sale in England. Some of the effects he obtains are wonderfully artistic and his methods of toning with uranium produce a variety of pleasing colors.


Ever since the earliest days of film photography he has been a strong advocate of these supports. Out of every one hundred exposures he makes ninety of them upon films. During the last two or three years he has been traveling through Brittany, Holland and Italy with a had camera, a roller slide and a lot of films.


Personally, Mr. Dresser is a genial gentleman of a kind disposition, ever ready and willing to assist others climbing along the paths that lead to success in photography. During the season he lends many thousand slides to the various societies and exhibitions. He is President of the Woolwich Photographic Club and a member of nearly all the principal societies in and around London.


In conclusion, we may describe the subject of our sketch as the best known hand camera man in existence.

An Old Salt

Image Dimensions17.5 x 13.7 cm May 18, 1894: Vol. XXIV, No. 661

Support Dimensions29.0 x 21.5 cm