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And so the saga begins. For the next several blog entries, I’ve decided to feature my favorite photographer, James Fitzallen Ryder (1826-1904). Born near Ithaca, New York, he was an apprentice for a local daguerreotypist by the name of Professor Brightly. A visit from Cleveland, Ohio photographer Charles Johnson caused Ryder to seriously pursue new techniques in photography. Ryder left Professor Brightly’s makeshift harness shop/photography studio, traveled west, and worked somewhat as an itinerant. He eventually settled in Cleveland, where he began a long, groundbreaking career in the field. Rather than summarize Ryder’s entire biography and scope of work, I’d like to refer you to a blog entry by vintagephotosjohnson. This is the most comprehensive summary and consolidated list of sources I’ve seen on the subject of Ryder.

Below you will see my collection of advertising cards for Ryder’s photography studio. Oddly enough, I purchased them from a seller in England. How these cards ended up across the pond, I have no idea. There are glue marks obscuring parts of the advertisements. This makes me think that someone had pasted them in an album or up somewhere on display. Whoever owned the cards had a specific attachment to them, of which we may never learn.

The cards highlight Ryder’s studio at 239 Superior Street in Cleveland. This was the last, most elaborate, and most permanent location of his studio. As evidenced by text on the cards, Ryder had branched out by this time. In addition to photography, he began to showcase and reproduce work by local artists, perhaps most notably Archibald Willard, in his gallery of fine art. By doing so, Ryder’s studio was known not only as a place to obtain a quality likeness, but also as a showplace for curious passersby. 

Stay tuned for my next post in the series. I plan to talk about my copy of Ryder’s autobiography Voigtländer and I: In Pursuit of Shadow Catching. I might even throw in a special photograph, but that’s a surprise!

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