Columbia University at Night

Columbia University at Night

Originally born in Norway, Siegried M. Upton (1878-1970) was an amateur photographer and fifth grade teacher who graduated in 1910 from Teachers College at Columbia University and taught at the Horace Mann School on campus. Her interest in photography most likely began at Teacher’s College c. 1918, where she became a student of Clarence H. White, a founding member of the American Photo-Secession movement who taught an evening course there from 1907 that continued into the early 1920’s.

Upton’s nephew, the English-born artist Charles James Martin, (1886-1955) was likely enrolled in White’s course at the same time as his aunt, and  both earned awards in a school-sponsored photography contest in 1918. Trained by Arthur Dow, Martin was a professor of fine arts at Teachers College who succeeded Max Weber as art instructor for the Clarence H. White School of Photography from 1919 – c. 1933. (1.)

Background, details, and a list of awards for this contest appeared in the Columbia Alumni News issue for Feb. 18, 1918:

There are many picturesque nooks and corners on the Columbia campus which the everyday passerby is apt to miss. These will be revealed at an exhibit of pictorial photography which opened on Alumni Day in Avery Library.


In this exhibit more than 100 masterpieces of photographic art will be shown. They have been selected out of 500 photographs which have been submitted by amateurs.


Mrs. Charles H. Jaeger, who has studied under Clarence White, founder of the “American school of pictorial photography,” gave the impetus to the exhibit by donating three prizes. For the finest photographic interpretation of Columbia University there is a prize of $75. There is a second prize of $25 and a third of $15. Six of the other contributors will receive honorable mention. The awards were as follows:


First prize. Charles J. Martin, view of Library.
Second prize. Antoinette B. Hervey, view of South Court and Earl Hall.
Third prize. Mrs. S. Sterling Smith, view of Library by night.


Honorable mention:

Charles J. Martin
Olive Garrison
Mrs. Louise Halsey
Mrs. Siegried M. Upton
Mrs. Adelaide W. Ehrich
Mrs. B. B. Wells

Special commendation. Miss Olive Garrison


Some of these photographs will be reproduced in future issues of the News.


Dr. and Mrs. Charles H. Jaeger have supervised the arrangement of the exhibit, which will last one month.
On the judging committee are Professor A. D. F. Hamlin, Professor A. W. Dow, Professor J. R. Crawford, Clarence H.White, and Richard Bach. (p. 519)

Upton later had a photograph included in a Columbia University publication by 1920 titled Philosophy, showing a nighttime exterior of the campus building housing this department. (2.)

Columbia University at Night by Upton, the title given this toned platinum or carbon photograph by this website, shows a pedestrian at dusk walking along Broadway past large urns flanking one of the walled entrances to the school. The domed building at background right is Earl Hall, designed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White and originally built from 1900-02.  Although this view no longer exists due to campus expansion over the years, urns of very similar design can still be seen in 2015 atop columns flanking a newer entrance along Broadway at 116th Street.

provenance: purchased 2012: Charles James Martin California estate heir


1. Background: Siegried M. Upton & Charles J. Martin: records from the Clarence H. White School of Photography held in the Warren and Margo Coville Collection in the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress compiled by Kathleen A. Erwin: 2015 email to this website from LC curator Verna Curtis. See also background on Martin: Pictorialism into Modernism: The Clarence H. White School of Photography: 1996: p. 84
2. see: Columbia University in the City of New York:  Photographic Studies, 1920: Preface by President Nicholas Murray Butler: New York

Siegried Maia Hansen Upton: December 13, 1878  – January. 1, 1970. In 1905, Upton married Columbia University Teacher’s College professor Clifford Brewster Upton, (1907-1957) an esteemed member of the mathematics faculty there from 1907-1942 and nationally-known authority on math pedagogy.

Columbia University at Night

Image Dimensions16.7 x 11.6 cm brown-toned print glued along upper margin

Support DimensionsDetail: 35.7 x 28.1 | hinged window: 18.6 x 13.2 cm: both: manilla card-stock mats (cropped to window opening here)