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William Crooke

Tour of USA

The January 1911 edition of the journal, American Photography reported:

"Two of the best-known portrait photographers in England [It should have said Britain!], William Crooke of Edinburgh and Walter Barnett of London sailed on December 17 for a six weeks' tour of the United States, during which they plan to visit some of the leading professionals of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburg, St Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, and other places. 

These gentlemen were asked by some of their American friends to bring collections of their portrait work.

Accordingly, Mr Crooke will have with him about sixty of his large pictures, made within the last few years, many of which have been shown at the exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society and the Salon.

Mr Barnett will bring one hundred uniform prints, all of one size, 61/2 x 81/2, and all made during the month of November 1910.  This display of the regular everyday work done in a single month will prove extremely interesting to photographers, and is a very unusual exhibit.

[American Photography:  1911, p.55]


Visit to JC Straus' studio, St Louis

The May  1911 edition of the journal, American Photography, reported on the visit by William Crooke and Walter Barnett to America - in particular on their visit to St Louis where the photographer JC Strauss acted as host, inviting both gentlemen and several North American photographers to his studio.

Crooke and others  -  St Louis

Photograph taken in the Court, JC Strauss Studio, St Louis, USA.

William Crooke and othrs at St Louis studio in 1911

  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society  [American Photography: May 1911]

UPPER ROW (left to right):  Henry Havelock Pierce (Boston),  Lewis Godlove (St Louis),  William Crooke (Edinburgh),  Judge MN Sale (St Louis),  Fred J Feldman (El Paso)

BELOW (Left to Right):  Frank A Rinehart (Omaha), H Walter Barnett (London),  Frank Scott Clark (Detroit),  AJ Fox (St Louis),  JC Strauss (St Louis),  EE Doty (Battle Creek),  E Swarzwald (Berlin).

JC Strauss arranged an exhibition of photographs by Messrs Crooke and Barnett, and opened the exhibition to the public for two weeks.


The Model

Miss Hellman

JC Strauss also arranged for nine of the photographers to photograph one of the visitors to the exhibition, Miss Maude Hellman, in his studio.

Each photographer was allowed ten minutes to take his photographs.  Sixty plates were exposed, and one photograph from each of the photographers was reproduced in the May edition of American Photography.  William Crooke's photo appeared on the cover. 
 [American Photography:  May 1911]

The photographers had to work fast.  

"If the costume in which she  first appeared did not suit, part of the time was spent changing it."  

Miss Hellman commented:

"The most lasting impression I gained was that each and every one of the men for whom I posed was an artist. ..."

"The work of some of the men was wonderful.  Pierce had me change my costume twice in ten minutes, and yet managed to take ten pictures.

[St Louis Star:  Reported in BJP, 17 Feb 1911, p.121]

Miss Hellman

Photograph by William Crooke

Photograph  of Miss Hellman  -  taken by William Crooke on a tour of America

  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society 
 [American Photography: May 1911]

Miss Hellman commented on the styles of each of the photographers. Commenting on the approach taken by William Crooke, she said:

"Mr Crooke of Edinburgh, who was the first, impressed me as a big artist.  He worked quickly and seemed interested in getting simple results in a striking way, however.  He has a trick of uttering half stifled exclamations of approval when he gets a pose that pleases him."    [American Photography:  1911, p 264]

In response to questions, William Crooke commented on American women.  Here are a few responses he gave when questioned about American women:

"... their magnificent carriage .  They are beautifully set up and their gait is wonderful"

"your women not only have good figures, but they wear their clothes close to them, in a manner which brings out the perfection of lines to the best advantage.  They do not bedeck themselves with a lot of unnecessary ribbons, frills and fol-de-rolls. ..."

"I do not necessary mean to imply, however, that I find your women any more fascinating than those in my country.  Our women are more irregular of feature, but that very fact gives a new interest. and a new subject for study, in every fresh face."

"I think your people must be fonder of being photographed than ours.  In Princes Street, the principal thoroughfare of Edinburgh, where my studio is located, there are perhaps five or six studios, whereas in Fifth Avenue, New York there are perhaps fifty or sixty." 
[American Photography:  1911, pp 264]

William Crooke returned to this theme again a couple of months later, when interviewed by a special representative from the British Journal of Photography in his Edinburgh studio.  Crooke said:

"Our people are slow to be photographed, and pass away off the face of the earth without any portrait being left behind;  except, perhaps, a snapshot taken by some friend in the back yard - up against the hen house, that is taken to some long-suffering professional, and he is asked to make something of it."
[BJP:  14 April 1911]

Thank you to Tom Yanul for sending me the photograph below of J C  Strauss with Miss Hellman:

J C Strauss and Miss Hellman

Photographed around 1911

J C Strauss and Miss Hellman - a photograph taken around the time that William Crooke of Edinburgh visited Strauss' studio in 1911

  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Tom Yanul

Tom explains how he recently acquired this photograph:


Strauss Negatives

In 1940, when Louis Strauss closed the Strauss studio, he fortunately left the negatives with Edwyn studio in St Louis.

Last week a made an emergency trip from Chicago to the Edwyn studio and  purchased the remaining J C Strauss materials. 

It was apparent that not all the Strauss negatives had been saved but I was very pleased to have saved the few boxes of glass negatives that were extant.

The building they were in was going to be demolished  and I had three days to get there, or else all the contents would have been destroyed.

Of the few boxes of big glass negs that date from the early years at Strauss, a couple were of the "Hellman" girl(s).

Hellman was the female model at the Strauss studio when William Crooke was there.  I  thought you might enjoy seeing  J.C. Strauss her with as shown in the negative.

Although the Strauss negative is not dated, it would seem its very close to the time of Crooke's tour, judging by the ages of both.

Tom Yanul, Chicago, Illinois, USA.  4 September 2005




British Journal of Photography

The British Journal of Photography,  in 1911, included 2 photogrpahs of William Crooke's studio in Princes Street, Edinburgh

The journal also reported that:

"Mr Crooke and Walter Barnett had just returned from a tour of the United States of America.  At New York, William Crooke met Pirie Macdonald (Photographer of Men), Baltimore, Washington, St Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Rochester where they were shown through the Kodak works, and afterwards entertained to lunch by Mr George Eastman in his palatial offices where they had the pleasure of meeting all the heads of departments.  

In Washington they were introduced to the President of the US, Mr Taft, and found him a very interesting and affable personality.  They held an Exhibition in St Louis - comprising over 200 pictures from Mr Barnett and  60 large pictures from William Crooke.

They met Mr Strauss.   Mr Cramer (St Louis) of plate fame gave a reception on the occasion of their visit with many photographers present, one of whom came 1000 miles to meet them.

He met Mr Rau, the official photographer for the Pennsylvania Railway - who had large prints 6 ft by 2 ft.  They were direct prints from film negatives taken on an immense panorama camera - much of it specially made to meet his own requirements.

They met Goldensky, Philadelphia, the bi-gum man.

Here, in Princes Street we have six photographers  -  there used to be more but they are now reduced to that number.  In 5th Avenue, New York, there must be at least sixty  photographers."   [BJP,  1911]



William Crooke

William Crooke - Photographed by Walter Barnett



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Tour of the USA

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Photographs in Exhibitions

Photographers whom I have met

A few Practical Hints for Beginners

Photograph King George V and others