The Vesper Bell

The Vesper Bell

The subject of this photograph is the grandmother of the photographer Rudolph Eickemeyer Jr. , who endured a month of sittings in a dairy barn on her farm outside of Yonkers, New York before Eickemeyer was satisfied with the final result.  The photographs made at this sitting  were the subject of a five-page essay – “How a Picture Was Made”  in the  third issue of Camera Notes (January, 1898-pp. 63-66) .  An excerpt by author Mary Panzer comments on Eickemeyer’s photographic process:

“Eickemeyer’s article, “How a Picture Was Made,” revealed the painstaking revisions he made to create a deceptively simple portrait of his grandmother, “Vesper Bell.”  This five page essay described the long complex interaction between photographer and subject mediated by the camera.  Eickemeyer deliberately destroyed the notion that the process was automatic, unplanned, or mechanical.  Narrative meaning was strengthened by changing the old woman’s activity from simple devotion to a homely scene of chores interrupted for prayer.  Added props and adjusted light improved the composition.  Each modification required a new print and planning.  The entire process took one month.  “Vesper Bell” went on to win medals in London, Calcutta, and Vienna.” 1.

Originally taken in 1894, The Vesper Bell was additionally reproduced as a photogravure in Camera Notes: January, 1898. Several variants of the sitting were  also reproduced as halftones in this issue accompanying  Eickemeyer’s essay.

1. In My Studio: Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. and the Art of the Camera 1885-1930: Mary Panzer :The Hudson River Museum of Westchester Inc. : Yonkers: 1986: p. 36

The Vesper Bell

Image Dimensions18.7 x 14.5 cm : Art folio #5, plate #2 The work of Rudolph Eickemeyer Jr. of New York.