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A. Aubrey Bodine - Legend In His Time - 1.9922 Out Of 2.0000

1.9922 OUT OF A POSSIBLE 2.0000

Between 1943 and 1960 Bodine produced his best pictures, probably won more awards and honors than any other newspaper photographer, achieved an international reputation for his salon work, came into his own as a rugged and colorful character, and was well on his way to becoming a legend in his own time.

In 1946 Neil H. Swanson, then executive editor of the Sunpapers, created the Sunday Sun rotogravure magazine, with new techniques in writing, design and photography to describe what was happening in Maryland. Philip S. Heisler, who had been a Sunpaper war correspondent in the Pacific, was made editor. M. Hamilton Whitman was the deskman and I was the writer. Charles Purcell was secretary and general handyman. Bodine’s title was changed to photographic director of the magazine. With the challenge of the new medium-this was one of the first ten newspaper magazines in the country-and with imaginative and demanding editors, Bodine enthusiastically set about covering the booming postwar years. He photographed the changing city and countryside, the bustling port, Baltimore’s varied industries, and personalities in the City Council and the State Legislature. He showed how Marylanders grew tobacco, harvested their crops, and, in remote areas, searched for wells with divining rods. He photographed the watermen of the Shore, the grinding of flour in a 200-year-old Harford county mill and Maryland’s star young farmer who, surprisingly, was still using oxen for heavy work. He accompanied government agents raiding Western Maryland stills. He found a retired man in Federalsburg who had decorated his yard with hundreds of freeform cement sculptures and his photos of these primitive works, which looked like rejected creatures from Thurber cartoons, made a magazine cover story.

His pictures were studied in schools, treasured in scrapbooks and hung up in crossroads garages. Amateur photographers marveled at his work and consoled themselves by saying, “Sure he gets great pictures. He should, with all that expensive equipment. What if he had a Brownie like us?” When such remarks got back to the Sun, Bodine was sent out with a box camera. The results were printed in the magazine of September 7, 1947. The spread included a typical Bodine view of a Mount Vernon Place fountain, shot almost directly into the sun to accentuate the water. To retain clouds in a picture of the Washington Monument he used sun glasses as a filter. The caption for the last picture read, “Even A. Aubrey Bodine can make the common slip of camera users and forget to turn the film.” But actually his double exposure was purposefully and adroitly done. The two shots became reflecting pattern studies. Bodine’s box camera snapshots were the talk of Baltimore.

His most popular feature was the “Maryland Gallery,” a series of full page pictures of Maryland life and scenes. The editors had planned to run this for about a year but it was so well received that it appeared in the magazine nearly every week for a number of years.

John S. Rowan, founder and publisher of Camera, which had its offices in Baltimore, was responsible for getting Bodine to return to salon work on a major scale in 1942. He was a good friend until his death in 1950 and did much to encourage and give direction to his exhibition work. Bodine had become a charter member of the Photographic Society of America in 1934 and he participated in its exhibitions every year until the late 1950’s.

 

° Bodine was so intrigued by the sculptures that he obtained several. Homer, described in a news story as “either a deer, goat or a curious horned dog,” decorated the steps of 805 Park avenue for years. It was often stolen on Halloween or the night before the City-Poly football game. On one of the latter occasions it was left on the steps of a funeral establishment; the undertaker returned it on the back seat of his funeral limousine. When it finally disappeared for good, Bodine replaced it with Ophelia, which resembled a mermaid. Homer and Ophelia were neighborhood landmarks. Their disappearances were chronicled in the papers. In 1961 Ophelia lost a hand. This distressed Dr. Jesse N. Borden, who had offices in the neighborhood. He wrote to the Bodines, “I am deeply grieved by the sad plight of your mermaid. As I pass her going to and from my office, the severe crippling, caused by the loss of her right hand, is heartrending. As an orthopedist, it presents a challenge which I find hard to resist. Would you permit me to undertake to restore this hand by reparative orthopedic surgery, using plaster or cement (if plaster will not hold)? This service would be in keeping with the precepts of my profession and the spirit which moves one at this time of year.”

 

He believed that exhibition work was the biggest factor in developing his artistry. In a letter to Joseph Costa, then with the New York Daily News and a leader in efforts to raise the quality of newspaper photography, Bodine wrote, “I can say with complete sincerity that if I had not been associated with this vast number of amateurs [PSA exhibitors] I would never have attained the position I enjoy among the newspaper profession, and the amateur and professional men throughout the country. I can also say without any hesitancy whatsoever that if each newspaper photographer entered into these annual salons, and were willing to make prints of superlative print quality and composition such as are to be seen on art museum walls throughout the United States, that with few exceptions every newspaperman would acquire a greater respect from his immediate superiors, as well as the public. Furthermore, I have learned most of my tricks from these amateurs, and without exception I have found out very little from any newspaperman.

In other letters he gave another reason why the PSA meant much to him. “I am more or less isolated here in Baltimore,” he wrote Eldridge R. Christhilf in Chicago, “and I have no one here to offer any constructive criticism except John Rowan. So, I do it the hard way-send a new print out, and wonder why it was rejected.” Earlier he had thanked the Metropolitan Camera Club Council of New York for an honor, probably an associate membership. He wrote, “For a long time I have been conscious that some out-of-town connection would be desirable, for I am more or less buried in Baltimore, with the possible exception of John Rowan, and perhaps this is the solution.”

Rowan wrote Bodine, “As you are a prominent judge and exhibitor I [would like] your definition as to what you feel is pictorial photography. By this I mean the type of photograph that is acceptable to salons.”

Bodine replied, “Any photograph that has a refreshing approach with good composition and excellent technique is in my opinion a good salon print, be it still life, portrait, landscape, marine or abstract design. The reason so many prints fail to click consistently is due to the lack of one or more of the aforementioned reasons. At the recent judging in the Pittsburgh salon dozens and dozens of prints looked good at a distance but fell by the wayside on close inspection, and that is how a salon should be judged. People certainly do not stand six or eight feet away from a print in the gallery. I have no objection to what extent a worker alters his original negative in order to achieve some desired results, but I most strenuously object to crude, obvious handwork apparent to any layman. I have often said that if every salon worker were to make glossy prints for one year he would either be a huge success or failure. He would be compelled to be more careful processing his negative and spotting, not resorting to a bag of tricks. One thing that many judges will reject a print for is what he calls bad tones. I have asked what do you mean by bad tones, invariably to be told too brown, red, etc. That is, to my way of thinking, nonsense. A worker has the right to select a tone just as you or I have to pick a red or blue tie.”

“I would like to elaborate about tones,” he said in a letter to John W. Doscher, of South Woodstock, Vt. “Vast quantities of grand pictures are rejected for what some judge howls bad tone. Generally their comment is that selenium is ruining so many good pictures. My idea of tonal quality is a print with clean highlights, and not one stained as my Atlanta one was, which I greatly admire the three of you for throwing out. The fact was I had half way managed to master tone a bromide print, and tried to pull a fast one, but was caught.

“In the Baltimore Camera Club and elsewhere there is the constant yelling-too brown, too red or chocolate. What difference does it make? It is the maker’s privilege to select his tone just as he has a right to select his clothes. For example at the club recently during a print criticism one of the better workers took my print apart, with the final remark that I don’t like the tone, for it ‘stinks.’ Needless to say this didn’t bother me, but at the same time I couldn’t help think how narrow a rut his mind was in, also observing at the same time what he was wearing-dirty white shoes, brown trousers, light checkered coat with a weird striped jersey underneath. I wouldn’t be caught at Hitler’s funeral in such a fantastic rig, but at the same time I did not consider him an idiot, he was merely wearing what pleased his fancy. Conversely, I feel that a print maker should not be penalized for selecting a tone if it has been executed technically well.”

The importance he attached to exhibitions was emphasized in an article in Minicam Photography. “The salons give me a gauge to apply to my work” he was quoted. “Competition with amateurs keeps me on my toes and helps me to keep my newspaper work up to snuff. I will say without hesitation that if it were not for my salon work I would not put half as much effort into each assignment. Salons are a goal I enjoy shooting at.”

He was one of the first newspapermen, if the not the first, to take salon work seriously and was proud that most of his salon prints came from newspaper assignments. ° He felt that his newspaper subjects gave more breadth and vigor to salon photography. In a resume of his career, under the heading “Accomplishments,” he wrote, “During the past 20 years I have proved conclusively that a newspaper photographer can produce, and make an editor as well as a public accept and like, pictures of salon caliber. It has been told to me by more than one person that I have been more responsible than any one photographer in lifting this one-time pugilistic slam-bang profession into a dignified and honorable art.”

He was proud too that he entered only top shows and that he exhibited many prints, not just proven winners. He did not respect cameramen who sent out only four or five a year, or who exhibited only past winners. He attempted to average a new picture for each salon. One year, for example, he sent out nearly 90 prints for 23 salons, and had 23 new pictures exhibited.

This was hard on him - and his family. When he was gold-toning prints in the bathtub his wife and daughters bathed at a neighbor’s. At times they could not use the living room because he had prints stretched across the floor to dry, and they ate in the kitchen because the dining room table was usually covered with pictures that had just been shellacked. Although Bodine enjoyed making salon prints, he could not be bothered with the routine entailed. That fell to his wife. She filled out the entry blanks, kept track of what prints were at what salon, packed them for shipment, insured them at the post office, and, for the foreign entries, filled out declarations at the customs house. She took his dictation and wrote the voluminous correspondence he carried on about his salon work, his judging and his duties and interests with photographic organizations. And she answered the phone, which rang frequently. He would never answer it, no matter how long it rang; he seldom would talk on it to anyone but his editor.

Years before glossy paper was common in the salons he used it frequently. “I wanted to impress the judges with the importance of good technical quality,” he said. When glossy paper became common and judges aware of good technique, then Bodine went back to matte surfaces.

He used a variety of processes. At one time the PSA was circulating a one-man show of his that included eleven different processes. Among them were carbros, gum bromides, multiple gums, bromoils, paper negatives and carbons. He used these not as a stunt but because he enjoyed experimenting.

He was a tough competitor, did not grumble too much when his entries, even consistent winners, were rejected, and was a gracious loser. One year friends told him that he was going to be the top-rated exhibitor. He was so confident that he informed other exhibitors that he had won. But when he was beaten out in a close finish by L. Whitney Standish, he wrote, “I am pleased that he came out on top. His work is splendid and his achievement is no fluke.”

 

° One of the few that did not was “Garbage Can and Ivy.” In the Forties he became so disgusted listening to judges rave about “garbage can art” that he satirized the fad by treating the subject pictorially. He had ivy flowing in graceful patterns from a shiny new can.

 

A New York exhibitor asked him for a print of “Three Kittens,” which he described as the best picture of its kind he had ever seen. Bodine sent it to him with this note, “You innocently played me a dirty trick when you asked for this print. I had planned to enter it in the Baltimore Camera Club contest, feeling it had a good chance of winning the cup for best print of the year, but then when I found out that you were going to be one of the judges I felt that to enter the print would be taking unfair advantage of the other contestants.”

His record in PSA exhibitions was one of the best in the country, if not the best. He won so many medals, plaques, cups and ribbons that it is doubtful that even he had the vaguest idea of the number.

But he did keep careful records of his exhibition prints in a loose-leaf binder, one of his most guarded possessions. The cover was imprinted “Salon Record 1926-1953. A. Aubrey Bodine, F.P.S.A., F.N.P.P.” The notebook was divided into three alphabetized sections. In the first a page was devoted to each print, where and when it had been exhibited, its ranking and what it had won. Honors were underlined in red ink or grease pencil. The second section was the record for each salon entered. The third was a listing of the 253 prints he had submitted since 1926. Thus he could easily determine which prints were the most successful and how he had fared in each salon. The binder also contained his record in the National Press Photographers’ Association competitions, listed the 28 countries in which he had won awards and the museums in which his prints are in permanent collections. The latter include the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., and museums in Seattle, Detroit and Toronto. All the entries were recorded in longhand. He had noted that the list of 253 pictures was compiled when he was a patient in Osler five of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in March, 1956, and updated in May, 1960, when he was in Osler five “AGAIN”.

Here are his most successful exhibition prints, their number of acceptances and honors (this does not include honorable mentions) and the approximate year they were made:

 

Title Acceptances Honors Year

Misty Harbor

99

26

1955

Baltimore Harbor Night

96

17

1949

Three Kittens

81

5

1944

Choptank Oyster Dredgers

74

15

1948

Crooked Trees

67

13

1962

Doris Hamlin Bowsprit

67

7

1939

Baltimore Harbor Day

63

11

1945

Ten Thousand Vinegar Barrels

61

1

1945

Susquehanna Herring Fishermen

60

1

1944

Mainsail Doris Hamlin

57

1

1939

Snow Park Avenue

53

5

1948

Greenspring Lane

44

1

1948

Snow Around Fence

29

3

1957

 

Seven of the thirteen were water subjects, his most successful theme and also his favorite one. Eight of the pictures were made in the Forties, only three after 1949. Public taste paralleled that of the judges; the pictures most sought-after by print buyers were “Oyster Dredgers,” “Crooked Trees” and “Greenspring Lane.” In recent years the most popular, by far, has been “Snow Around Fence.” This was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He never said which pictures he himself liked best but Mrs. Bodine believes that the most successful salon prints were among his favorites, and not just because they had scored highest with judges over the years.

The picture that attracted the most attention was taken while he was finishing a Sun magazine story on oyster dredging. It was snapped hurriedly while he clutched the mast of a swaying oyster boat. It shows the skipjacks Maggie Lee and Lucy Tyler working a Choptank River oyster bed during a rainstorm, the crews continuing to dredge oblivious of the weather. One can see the driving rain punching holes in the swirling waters. The beautifully composed picture has feeling, mood and dramatic intensity. Readers likened it to the marine paintings of Winslow Homer. It won first prize, a $5,000 savings bond, as the best black and white picture in a 1949 contest sponsored by Popular Photography which attracted 51,038 entries. The next year in that magazine’s contest, which drew 53,554 entries, Bodine’s “Early Morning Charge” won the $1,000 second prize. He considered this unlikely feat among his major achievements.

His most important exhibition honors included:

Between 1943 and 1948 he ranked as one of the top exhibitors in the country for the number of prints accepted in PSA shows. Twice he was first, once he was second and once third. In 1947 he had 80 out of 88 prints accepted in 22 of the top salons. His acceptance average was 1.9922 out of a possible 2.0000. Between 1925 and 1950 his acceptance rate made him the fourteenth most successful exhibitor in the world.

Bodine achieved a unique honor in 1945 when “Susquehanna Herring Fishermen” and “Ten Thousand Vinegar Barrels” became the two most successful prints exhibited in American salons. In world competition that year the former ranked twelfth and the latter twentieth.

In 1946 “Baltimore Harbor Day” won him the PSA medal for the best picture of the year. In 1947 “Ebb Tide” won the same award.

This is his exhibition record, based on statistics of the American Annual of Photography up to 1954, as compiled by Edward L. Bafford for this book:

 

Year

Exhibitions

Prints Accepted

Year

Exhibitions

Prints Accepted

1925

3

7

1940

1

4

1926

3

7

1941

2

4

1927

7

14

1942

18

42

1928

4

4

1943

39

122

1929

3

6

1944

33

115

1930

2

6

1945

24

87

1931

8

18

1946

26

88

1932

9

29

1947

22

80

1933

6

12

1948

25

86

1934

6

15

1949

26

92

1935

6

15

1950

25

80

1936

5

12

1951

38

112

1937

3

6

1952

25

86

1938

1

4

1953

26

92

1939

2

6

1954

30

94

(Maximum of 4 could be entered in each salon)

In 1946 he was nominated a Fellow of the Photographic Society of America “for outstanding press and marine photography, inspirational teaching and creative pictorial work.” In 1965 he was named an Honorary Fellow of that society, which, with its membership of 13,000, is the largest such society in the world. The citation praised him “for his talent, accomplishments and encouraging influence in photography as an art, and for his devoted service to the PSA over a long period of years.” The honorary fellowship is the highest honor the PSA can bestow. It is given only for unique or outstanding achievement in photography and had been awarded to only 20 others, including Edward Steichen, the late Alfred Stieglitz and the late Edward Weston.

 

°The American Annual of Photography did not compile these records after 1954. The task was taken over by the PSA and for the next few years its compilations were not complete.

 

During his exhibition years Bodine gave freely of his time to serve as a judge, even though he realized that his rejections and comments sometimes hurt the feelings of exhibitors who might judge shows he would enter. During his career he judged practically every major Eastern show. He was interested in - and always commenting on - all aspects of judging. In a three-page single-spaced letter to Doscher he declared, “In summary, to my mind the greatest evils existing that can be corrected are to have a sensible uniform viewing light; elimination of a five-man jury, where several deadheads are run in for honor’s sake; a more careful selection of the jury, with a diversified knowledge of photography, and preferably those who also have a knowledge of art; a more tolerant attitude toward toned prints.”

“My chief source of irritation,” he wrote George Hoxie, editor of Minicam Photography, “is this idiotic, illogical electrical system of voting that was rigged up by some super Lionel train expert. It is inconceivable to me of anyone trying to appraise the value of a print without discussion.”

He was so concerned about judging methods that he arranged to have stop-watch timings kept on the judging for three shows. He detailed it this way:

 

City

Prints

Minutes

Time Per Photo (minutes)

Philadelphia

1123

330

.294

36% more time devoted in Pittsburgh 

Baltimore

1024

326

.318

26% more time devoted in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

1386

556

.401

 

 

Bafford, a friend of Bodine’s from the early Twenties when both were active in the Baltimore Camera Club, judged many shows with him. Though they had similar styles in photography they often differed violently in their viewpoints. They would get into slam-bang arguments that are still talked about at the club. Looking back on those days, Bafford calls Bodine a good judge. “He always gave experimental photographers points, whether they succeeded or not. He said you had to encourage them or you’d never have progress. He and I once arranged for a controversial salon at the Baltimore Museum of Art with three artists judging it. There were about 2,000 prints and they only selected about 75. Exhibitors raised hell for years.

“As a judge he seldom mentioned a print’s good qualities, but he always commented on its bad ones. He felt that was the way to help people, but it wasn’t always appreciated. He didn’t like cats, dogs, babies, tabletops, or anything sentimental. He never liked nudes and didn’t think there was any excuse for them. I think he made only two in his life.”

Bodine was honored with a number of one-man shows. In addition to his first in Hagerstown in 1933, as noted earlier, they included: the Peale Museum, Baltimore, 1944; the Eastman Exhibition Hall, Rochester, N.Y., 1948; two at the Smithsonian Institution, 1951 and 1958 ( fourteen of his pictures are in its History of Photography collection); the Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Va.; and two at the Baltimore Museum of Art, one in 1954 and the other immediately following his death in 1970. Most of the prints in the latter were sold before the show ended, even though there had been no plans or efforts to do this. In 1965 Bodine had a show in Moscow that was the first exchange of one-man photographic exhibits between the United States and the U.S.S.R. The latter was represented by Vladimir Shakhovskoi, the “dean” of Russian photographers. This exchange was arranged by Frank B. Christopher, a former Baltimorean now living in Falls Church, Va., who has conducted a one-man campaign to use the medium of photography to create better understanding in the world. He was also instrumental in having a set of 64 of Bodine’s prints exhibited in many other countries.

Bodine was a charter member of the National Press Photographers’ Association, which was founded in 1945, and for many years was active on a national and local level. He told national headquarters that he had “cornered, badgered and conjured [sic] every photographer in Baltimore into joining.” On the national level he was a leader in raising professional standards and attempting to improve the image of the news photographer. He was on the photo contest committee that developed the “Pictures of the Year” contest, the largest of its kind in the world.

In the 1950’s when the Encyclopaedia Britannica co-sponsored that competition, Bodine won many major awards and innumerable secondary ones, usually for the best pictures in feature and pictorial classes. He won twelve sets of the 24-volume Encyclopaedia Britannica, four or five sets of the Junior Encyclopaedia and the two-volume Britannica World Language Dictionary, and five or six copies of the Encyclopaedia World Atlas. When Life printed his picture for winning this amazing number of reference books he received hundreds of letters asking for a free set. He was unable to oblige because he had only one set left. He had given the rest away as soon as he got them to schools and friends.

He was named a Fellow of the National Press Photographers’ Association in 1953, thus becoming the first man to have a Fellowship in both it and the Photographic Society of America.

The former’s top award was “Newspaper Photographer of the Year.” It was one honor Bodine never achieved and he wanted it badly. He coveted it even more after it was won in 1953 by a colleague, Hans Marx, a superb photographer and print maker. Bodine felt that he was at a disadvantage in the national competition because that was based on points scored in a number of categories. While he did well in “magazine picture story,” “magazine features,” “pictorial,” and even, occasionally, “sports,” he never could enter suitable pictures for “spot news” or “general news.” .As a Sunday magazine photographer he did not have an opportunity to cover spot news. Besides, he did not have the knack or temperament to do so. He was at his best setting up his tripod and view camera when the time, lighting and circumstances were all of his own determining. He was not usually too effective when he had to shoot fast and under rapidly changing conditions.

Every year he entered as many pictures as he could in that NPPA competition. In 1957 he scored the most points. But it was announced, “the judges felt a distinction had to be made between a photographer covering assignments for Sunday use, like Bodine, and one covering also daily spot news events. The man with the best overall representation in the latter was George Smallsreed, Jr., of the Columbus Dispatch, who was named `Newspaper Photographer of the Year.’ “ Bodine was designated “Newspaper Magazine Photographer of the Year.”

To say that this decision disappointed and angered him is putting it mildly and politely. He fired off telegrams to the NPPA, to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and to the judges. He said that since there was a qualification in his title there should be one in Smallsreed’s too. He demanded that the other winner be termed “Photographer of the year - General Assignments.” The judges would not listen. He was informed by telegram, “The decision of the judges specifically termed your award newspaper magazine photographer of the year and Smallsreed’s title newspaper photographer of the year. Plaque must be as described .in this telegram since that is how the judges decreed it.”

That did not stop Bodine. From then on he referred to himself in his press releases and biographical material as “Newspaper Photographer of the Year.” And that is the way he has the citation read in Who’s Who.

In the middle Fifties he lost interest in American exhibitions and began entering more foreign salons, in which he had shown sporadically since 1947. He was disenchanted with the type of photography becoming more popular in America and he disliked the five-man jury system which was being used more frequently. Probably he was also looking for new worlds to conquer, and in foreign competition he could submit the prints that had been so successful in America.

Before he began entering foreign competition he wrote John R. Hogan, of Philadelphia, “There are a number of questions I would like to ask as you are better qualified to answer them than anyone I know. At the same time, it seems selfish to ask these things and not give others the benefit. So, how about doing an article in PSA as a service to the Pictorial Division? In short I would like to exhibit abroad. What is the order of procedure? Some say send a dollar-does that mean a dollar bill or a dollar of their money-How can one do this easily-draft, money order or check?-How best to ship-declarations, customs, etc.? You once told me not to mount on account of dampness. Can a 16 by 20 print be rolled and accepted, or mailed flat? Time lapse in transit, also types of pictures, depth of print or whatever else you think would help.”

He sent to exhibitions in such cities as Barcelona, Bucharest, Delhi, Ghent, Karachi, Singapore, Sydney and Queensland, Australia, Vienna and Zagreb, Yugoslavia. He won major awards in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Canada, Cuba, England, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Holland, Hungary, India, Luxemburg, Malaya, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Republic of China, the Republic of South Africa, Romania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, and Yugoslavia. But in the early 60’s he began to lose interest in these salons too. Because of failing health and the time needed to produce his newest book, “The Face of Virginia,” he sent out his last salon prints in the middle Sixties.

Stanley L. Cahn, a Baltimore advertising man who had been a friend of Bodine’s for years and a purchaser of his pictures for advertising and promotional purposes, conceived the idea of bringing out Bodine pictures in book form. To produce the first volume Bodine & Associates was formed in 1951.° In addition to Cahn and Bodine, the incorporators were George Rowan, who dropped out a few years later, and J. Albert Caldwell, founder of Universal Lithographers, Inc., of Baltimore. Cahn dummied up a book, titled it “My Maryland,” and showed it to Albert D. Hutzler, president of Hutzler’s, who was so enthusiastic that he placed an immediate order for 500 copies. That enabled Cahn to get favorable responses from other large book outlets in Baltimore. “My Maryland” contained 174 pictures that Bodine said he selected from an estimated 25,000 negatives. The book went on sale in September, 1952, and by November 1 that entire edition of 2,500 had been sold. It had four printings and has sold nearly 9,000 copies.

“Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater” was published in 1954 and has become Bodine’s most popular book. It has had five printings and two revised editions, selling more than 22,000 copies. The national lithographers’ trade association picked “My Maryland” in 1952 as the best lithographed book of the year; “Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater” won that award in 1954. These and subsequent books were printed in Unitone, a printing technique developed by Caldwell and his staff. Fine screen halftones are over-printed in such a way as to give an extra dimension to the pictures.

A third picture book was “The Face of Maryland,” published in 1961. It has had five printings and two revised editions, selling 12,000 copies. Finally, “The Face of Virginia” was published in 1963 and has sold 9,000 copies.

Two other Bodine productions were “A Guide to Baltimore and Annapolis,” 1957, with text by the author of this biography and “Baltimore Today,” 1969, another guide book with text by James F. Waesche.

Bodine wrote an introduction for each of his four picture books. He told how some of the photographs were made, named favorite places in the Bay country and revealed a little, but not much, about himself: He thought automobiles in the foreground of the State Office Building would spoil the view, so he waited until the Fourth of July to make it. For many years he had been unable to shoot rolling fields filled with cornshocks; he felt it took about 20 acres of shocks for a scenic picture and in recent times farmers were reluctant to shock that much because of the labor involved. Otwell was his choice of all Colonial homes in Maryland, Dorchester was the most interesting and scenic of the Eastern Shore counties, Frederick his favorite city in Maryland, Fredericksburg his favorite in Virginia. One of the pleasantest assignments he ever had was a one-week trip aboard the four-master Doris Hamlin to Newport News. In “My Maryland” he wrote, “Some of the big events of my life took place on Tilghman Island when, as a boy, I visited my uncle, Dr. Scott Kennedy Wilson; once he took me to St. Michaels and purchased for me my first pair of long pants.”

 

° In Who’s Who Bodine lists himself as president of Bodine & Associates but he never had that position. Until his death in July, 1971, Caldwell was president. Bodine was secretary treasurer. According to Cahn, he never signed a check.

 

In “Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater” he began adding his initials and those of family and friends in odd spots on photographs before the engravings were made. The initials are hidden on barrels, fences, wharves, barns, bridges, boats. He never told anyone about them, wanting sharp-eyed readers to discover them and wonder what they meant. It became a private game among his friends to see how many they could find. He claimed that not half were discovered; then he admitted he could not remember where he had put most of them.

This whimsicality first attracted public attention when he was lecturing before the Rehoboth Art League in Delaware. When he asked if there were any questions, Avery Ellis, of Georgetown, stood up. “I’ve got one,” he said. “How did the initials R.Q.Y. and R.P.H. get on the side of my rowboat, which you pictured on page 69 of `Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater’?” Blushing, Bodine explained what he had done. The initials represented friends, Richard Q. Yardley, the Sun cartoonist, and R. P. Harriss, a Baltimore newspaperman.

What made Bodine the photographer he was? What were the secrets of his darkroom? Admirers can praise but not explain.

Wilbur H. Hunter, director of the Peale Museum, summed up in one sentence, “He was in absolute command of what he was doing.” Bafford said that when taking pictures “he had the patience of a saint.” Albert D. Safro, supplier of his equipment and materials, described him as “probably the finest photographer who ever worked in a darkroom. It was unbelievable what that man could do there.” A judge wrote on a comment sheet about one of his pictures, “If I could make a print like this I wouldn’t care whether photography was an art or not.” Joseph Costa, a photographer for 51 years and for much of that time involved on the national scene, declared, “Besides having the greatest respect for Aubrey for his integrity, for having the courage of his convictions, and for his fearlessness in speaking out whenever he felt the need, I considered him certainly the finest print maker I have ever known and the greatest photographic pictorialist of his time-if not all-time greatest.”

His equipment, contrary to what many believed, was not elaborate. His first camera was a 2 1/2 by 41/2 Kodak. In his early newspaper days he had a 4 by 5 Speed Graflex with a Verito lens to produce soft images. Then he went to a Kodak 5 by 7 view camera with five different lenses, from a wide angle to a 12-inch Goerz Dagor; he considered the six-inch Goerz the best lens for that camera. For some work he carried a Speed Graphic, “which is a good example of what not to build. It should have a revolving back, various swings and be lighter in weight.” In the early 60’s he began using a Hasselblad for many newspaper assignments. He found it adaptable and easy to carry - the latter factor was important when illness began to sap his strength. His favorite camera was a 5 by 7 Linhof. He used this for most pictorial work; its large negative was ideal for the detailed retouching he did.

He kept the equipment in the back of his car (the capacity of the trunk had a lot to do with the automobile he bought). In addition to cameras and tripods, he also had a machete, shovel, child’s white parasol, bee smoker, compass, toilet paper, and galoshes and old shoes for swamp jobs. The machete and shovel were used to cut down or remove anything from weeds to stout saplings that got in the way of his camera angle. The parasol, spotted and stained, replaced the usual flashgun reflector when he needed a softer light. The compass helped figure future lighting when he was caught in strange territory without sunlight. The bee smoker provided wisps of smoke to create mood or hide a distracting element. Toilet paper was wrapped around flash bulbs to get a diffused light.

Bodine had an intuitive sense of what to photograph and, with his art training, knew how to crop his scene in his viewfinder. I wrote in the foreword to “The Face of Maryland,” “I think that what he leaves out of a picture is almost as important as what he allows into it. If I come upon a view that I have first seen in a Bodine picture, I am often disappointed. Actuality is seldom as beautiful as Bodine’s portrayal.”

Patience was one of his great virtues. He was known to wait three or four hours to catch the right light on an old house. He went to Federal Hill 30 or 40 mornings attempting to make a color shot of the Baltimore skyline before he even took the camera out of the car. Bafford was with him when he drove to Braddock Heights, west of Frederick, to photograph the Middletown Valley on a particular spring morning. Just as he was about to take the picture the light failed. Without a word he put camera and tripod back in the car and drove back to Baltimore He waited another year to get just what he wanted.

His “one shot” technique was envied but not often imitated. He might be far from home-the United States Military Academy at West Point, for example-and he would take just one shot of a vital subject, the superintendent of the Academy, in this particular case. Public relations men would whisper nervously, “Don’t you think you’d better shoot a couple more to be sure?” Bodine must have relished such uneasiness. If the public relations men had been giving him a hard time by suggesting what to shoot he would deflate them in such circumstances by saying loud enough for everyone to hear, “All I need is one of him.”

He used psychology to get his pictures. The story of his brewery assignment has been told many times. He asked to have the general manager show him around. The executive did, but was puzzled because Bodine did not make a picture; in fact, did not have a camera with him. “All the employees saw me with the big boss,” Bodine said later. “That’s all that mattered. When I went back with my camera they associated me with him and did everything I asked.” That was a lot. He had them paint tanks white and move several hundred empty barrels to heighten the effect of one picture.

Sometimes the psychology was employed subtly. When it was easy to distinguish by the license tag letters and numbers whether a car was registered in Baltimore or the counties, Bodine used his influence to get county tags for his Baltimore-registered car. He felt that country people would be more likely to help him if they thought he was from the county rather than the city.

On a trip to Nova Scotia Robert V. George, Bafford and Bodine were driving back to the hotel in a cloudburst. When they passed a wharf where fishermen were docking their boat Bodine shouted for the driver to stop. Bafford said it was a great scene but he and George were content to shoot from inside the car to keep from getting soaked. Not Bodine. Without taking time to pull on a raincoat he set up his tripod and camera. By then the fishermen were out of the boat and on the pier. Bodine motioned to them to go back; they responded by putting thumb to nose and wiggling their fingers. He pulled a fistful of dollars from his pocket and waved them, shouting, “Here’s money for whisky to get warm.” The fishermen returned to the boat and Bodine got his picture. He titled it “A Long Haul” and in 1952 it won the Photographic Society of America’s “Grand Award for Monochromatic Prints.”

His years of experience paid off in many ways. Often when photographing individuals he had them stand tiptoe. People on their toes, he said, always look alert. One of his favorite subjects was the Amish because of their gentle nature and quaint clothes. He claimed he could identify Amish farmhouses by checking telephone and electric wires: If none ran into the property he was pretty sure it was Amish because this sect rejects modern conveniences. He had a sharp eye for detail. When shooting the interior of an old mill in October for the Christmas issue of the Sun Magazine he alertly tore the October and November pages off the wall calendar so the picture would not be dated that way.

Sometimes he sought to improve his pictures in questionable ways. When photographing Civil War battlefields for his books he loaded his car with muskets and stood these against stone walls or in stacked position on the fields, giving a false sense of verisimilitude. Occasionally he would throw one of his broken wagon wheels on a battlefield road to provide a focal point. Eight pictures in the Civil War section of “The Face of Virginia” have been adorned with rifles or wheels; the musket in Ball’s Bluff cemetery is not easy to spot even though it is incongruously placed.

After Mencken’s death he secured permission from the estate to make a photographic record of the house just as it was when the Sage of Hollins Street lived there. In photographing Mencken’s bedroom he took several pictures from one wall to hang over the bed. I was with him and I told him he should not do that, for both personal and historical reasons. He went right on hammering nails to hang the pictures while he answered me, “Who in the hell wants to look at a blank wall over the bed?”

He preferred early morning light and would get up at 4 o’clock to get it. Asked at a camera club meeting what his favorite piece of equipment was, he cracked, “An alarm clock! You can’t make pictures in bed.” He got special effects by aiming his camera at the early morning sun. He felt that on a hazy morning with the sun just over the horizon it was possible to shoot into it without ruining the picture with glare. He also got silhouettes and water reflections that way.

He went out at night, particularly if it was snowing or raining. Writing to Hoxie, editor of Minicam Photography, he maintained, “Only an experienced photographer would know how to make a decent night picture, and get the lines straight, exposure correct, sufficient imagination to make it on a rainy night, and likewise protect his camera from the rain, and be skillful enough to watch the automobile traffic, especially from side streets. This [speaking of the picture in question] involved opening and closing the shutter perhaps several hundred times. It required painstaking skill and imagination. One member of the club showed his ignorance by saying the picture was out of registration. It was not out of registration but during the long period of time in making the exposure naturally the trees moved from time to time.”

Sun photographers stamp their names on back of their pictures for identification and credit. Bodine stamped his name only on those prints which he felt had artistic or lasting value. He did not want his name associated with the routine pictures he made.

In his nearly 50 years as a photographer, he said, there were just four pictures he regretted not making. Three were of incidents he spotted while he was speeding by to some assignment. The first involved two cows separated by a barbed wire fence. Each had its head through the fence, grazing on the other side. On a rainy day he passed a roadside picnic table where a family was enjoying its outing despite the weather; each person had a sandwich in one hand, an umbrella in the other. The third was a motel scene late one morning. Only one car was left on the huge parking lot. Its bumper was tied with tin cans and bore a sign “Just Married.” Bodine said he would have titled that shot “High Noon.”

The fourth picture he regretted not making involved Albert Einstein. He was at Princeton doing a story on Robert Oppenheimer when Einstein walked in wearing a stocking cap. Bodine asked permission to make his picture but Einstein shyly declined. Bodine did not press his request. And that would have been the last picture made of the great theoretical physicist. He died four hours later.

Bodine mentioned only one picture that he was sorry he did make. Early in his career he was in Elkton getting pictures of a marriage mill. He sneaked a shot of two young couples who had come from Pennsylvania for a double wedding. The girls were upset about having their picture unexpectedly taken for a newspaper and refused to go through with the wedding. With the bridegrooms fit to kill him, Bodine yanked the unexposed film from the opposite side of the holder and gave it to one of the four. The ceremony proceeded; the boys got their brides and the photographer his picture. He told the story in several interviews during the 40’s as an example of his ingenuity and quick thinking. But not long before he died he retold the story to Malcolm Allen. And then he saw it in a different perspective. “They were real young poor kids from some goddamned tobacco factory who probably didn’t know what they were doing,” he recalled. “If I hadn’t given them that phony film they probably wouldn’t have gotten married then. I may have wrecked four lives by being smart alecky and selfish.”

There are many theories and educated guesses at to what Bodine did in his darkroom, but no one is really sure because he never revealed his secrets. Everyone agrees, though, that what he did there was far beyond the capabilities of even outstanding technicians. He had taught himself by imaginative experimenting, and much that he did was unorthodox. Most photographers take about six minutes to develop film; Bodine often took 10, 15 or 20 minutes. Then he used a reducing agent to get the negative he wanted. He developed by inspection, picking the negatives out of the developer from time to time to examine them under safe light; his fingers were permanently stained brown from being in the developer so much. He mixed his chemicals much as a good cook mixes a cake, not by following directions on the box but by intuition that came from years of experience. Chemicals recommended by the manufacturer for certain conditions he used in other ways. Photographic paper is dated and carries a warning against use after its expiration date. Bodine deliberately saved paper until it became outdated, maintaining that it had a more stable base then and produced better exhibition prints. Yet despite his own wizardry he often called upon the Eastman Kodak research department or experts at the Rochester Institute of Technology for help with technical problems.

He was a master of processing and knew how to get better shadow detail than anyone else. He preferred low-key prints that retained all the detail in the shadow areas. An ideal print to him was “one in which there is a perfect range of tones, from pitch black areas among the darker shadows, through the middle tones, to the highlights, which should have detail.” He disliked massive areas of highlights because he felt they reproduced in chalky whites and were therefore uninteresting.

He was a master of gold toning which, by the use of gold chloride, gives a blue tint to a print. Bafford thinks he did this better than anyone else. He was also a master of improving his pictures by dubbing in elements, particularly clouds; he accumulated hundreds of cloud negatives to draw upon. Probably on of his first attempts at dubbing was made in 1942 on a print titled “At Dusk” that he entered in a Los Angeles salon. He had botched the job and a judge noted on the back of the entry, “ ‘At Dusk’ the clouds don’t show in front of the masts at Los Angeles.” The print was found in his personal effects with a note attached, “Save - important.”

He was not often caught in his dubbing. But one subscriber wrote to the Sun Magazine in 1968, “Unless my trifocals are in need of adjustment weren’t the clouds dubbed in on the Petersville picture? The shadows on the church and tombstones indicate the sun was over the left shoulder of the photographer. The reflections and rays of the sun in the clouds indicate the sun was behind the clouds.” Bodine was wary of discussing his cloud dubbing, but when questioned about it during one lecture, he said defensively, “I think I have as much right to do that as a writer has to use adjectives.”

His correspondence in the Forties contains references to plans for writing a book on the gum bichromate coating process “after I have a few more of the difficulties worked out.” He predicted that “some of the ideas I have will be as revolutionary or as advanced as Panchromatic film was to the old wet process that was developed around the time of gum bichromate.” The book was never written.

Bodine contributed articles to camera magazines on such subjects as double printing, landscape photography, and the future of color (this was in the early Forties) and he lectured extensively to camera clubs throughout the East. (One man who invited him to talk in Philadelphia several times wrote me, “He was the best photographer in America, and near its worst speaker.”) But neither in his writings nor in his lectures - in which he preferred to show his pictures - did he reveal his hard-learned darkroom secrets. He never even told them to colleagues on the Sun.

Richard Stacks, a magazine photographer from 1955 to 1969, said, “When someone discovered I worked with Bodine they’d say something like, ‘Boy, are you lucky, you have a chance to learn from one of the best.’ I’d just smile. I was too embarrassed to admit that Aubrey never volunteered one thing. It was the same with the other magazine photographers. If we’d ask him a technical question he’d mumble an excuse and walk away. But if he wanted information, say about color, or indoor lighting - his weaker points - he’d come around to pump us. The only way to find out something from him was to wait until he asked a question and then try to work the conversation around to your problem. But you had to be careful. If he suspected what you were doing he’d snap, ‘You’re just like those goddamned Eastman Kodak salesmen’ and walk away.”

But his colleagues, William L. Mender, Ellis Malashuk and Paul Hutchins, unquestionably benefited from their association and were inspired by his dedication and craftsmanship. Their technical abilities and the print quality of their pictures reflect his influence.

Bodine was a pictorialist in the romantic tradition. The essence of a photograph of his is its clarity and air of tranquility. Except for an occasional storm scene, his pictures are enchantingly beautiful because of their serenity. Somehow, in that magic moment when he snapped the shutter, he eliminated whatever would spoil the mood or mar the scene.

A surprising number of his pictures were devoid of people. Often when people did appear they were used incidentally for scale, to suggest motion or to fill a void. Though he made some remarkable portraits he was never at his best, or even at ease, with people. But let him pick his own time and place - a morning mist rising from a meadow, a lonely cove at dusk; then he captured mood and beauty in a way that was uniquely his. A Bodine picture was easy to recognize, even in a salon with hundreds of prints many of which imitated his style. He had his own way of dramatizing patterns, of detailing textures, of controlling light and shadow to communicate beauty. He made the viewer, even the insensitive one, see the scene much as he did and, more importantly, respond to it.

I asked Stanislav Rembski, an artist who had known Bodine for 25 years and had painted his portrait, to discuss Bodine’s artistic qualities. He began by referring to “Conversations with Goethe” by Eckermann and told a story from that book about a Rubens landscape that had light on cattle coming from the left and light on trees coming from the right. “Rubens did that for artistic effect,” Rembski said. “So did Bodine when he added clouds. They were both artists, not recorders of nature.” Several times he referred to the photographer’s artistic humility in keeping himself out of his pictures. “You forgot in a Bodine photograph,” he declared, “that this was the work of a strongly feeling person.” He did not think of Bodine as a romanticist, but as a classicist. He believed that Bodine had an idealistic love of his country and of Maryland. “There is an epic quality about his work for that reason. You can’t mistake a picture of his; it has its own style. His choice of material showed an astounding breadth. There was an amazing sense of color in his black and white pictures, which always seemed to achieve the right tonality. You looked at his pictures and were impressed, yet you did not think of them as highbrow. Bodine intuitively knew what the average man seemed to envision. There is a quality of folk art about his work.”

Wilbur Hunter, an authority on architecture, was impressed with Bodine’s architectural photography. “He appreciated a building for what it was. He not only showed everything of importance, but he evoked mood. That’s not easy to do.”

John Dorsey, of the Sunday Sun staff, offered this analysis of his work, “Aubrey Bodine’s vision of the world, which speaks so strongly through his photographs, often seemed a simplistic one. He seemed to see the world, and the people and things in it, from a rather narrow point of view, to make up his mind quickly and rarely to change it. He disliked the Freudian view of man or the delicacies in a political argument as much as he disliked unnecessary ornamentation in the landscapes he photographed.

“Such an attitude certainly can be found in the stark clarity of his photographs, in which all things superfluous are eliminated. Let others show snow scenes of airy lightness with gossamer threads of crystals adorning a drooping branch. Bodine showed a black fence and a black tree against a flat white background. Simple and bare, no shades and no compromise.

“But to see the picture only in those terms is to see only the beginning of Bodine’s art. Look at it again from the point of view of design, and you see that it is almost an abstract composition. For Bodine saw the similarity between abstraction and representationalism in the basic quality that all things have in common: a chair, a person, a mountain, everything is made up of certain shapes-the triangle, the circle, etc. - which in themselves are abstract.

“Thus Bodine could take a random abstraction on a wall, stick a broom next to it and make it look like a man sweeping the street. Conversely, he could make a recognizable object appear abstract: by making an extreme close-up of rocks at Gettysburg or of a zebra he made of them compositions in black and white in which the line and form are more important for their own sakes than as part of something else to which we can give a name.

“Then, too, Bodine had a remarkable ability to catch the essence of things. His tree and fence-as so many of his snow scenes-make you feel cold by capturing the bleakness and barrenness of winter. All the excitement and romance of the steam age of railroading are in his picture of an engine spouting smoke in all directions. The water in his bay pictures is wetter than the real thing.

“And there are even those pictures in which the element of symbolism is present. The oysterman’s drooping hat suggests the wearing life of its owner even better than his face. The fence that zigzags up a country hill suggests the slower pace of country life, where one has the time to meander and change directions now and then. In Bodine’s hands a curiously gnarled tree trunk sitting in a pothole at Great Falls became a prehistoric monster looming up out of a cave, a reminder that the process of erosion which has created the falls began many ages before there was any man around to see it and will no doubt be going on when we have disappeared.

“In short I think there is to Aubrey’s art a surface simplicity which hides a great many unsuspected depths-and I think the same was probably true of Aubrey.”

In January, 1971, Modern Photography published an appreciation of two important pictorialists, Bodine and William Mortensen, the latter described as “one of photography’s enigmas.” Ed Scully, the magazine’s technical editor, declared, “Bodine, the master of reality sublimated in romantically pictorial images, seems to be completely different from Mortensen. And on the surface, the two are dissimilar . . .Each gave photography a new and exciting pictorial insight. Neither accepted the f/64 school’s reality of crisp, but often sterile, pictures. Neither settled comfortably into the then accepted rut of fuzzy, soft-focused pseudo-romanticism. Both departed from what was being done. Bodine used the charm of pictorialism to sharpen his viewers’ feelings about his workaday world . . . Any analysis of salon photography will show how deeply A. Aubrey Bodine made his mark . . . Though overlooked in the three present histories of photography, Bodine and Mortensen will one day be recognized as two crucial influences in the American pictorial tradition.”

That recognition has not yet come to Bodine from the makers of national reputations - the big magazines and book publishers, the New York museums and galleries, and the New York critics. They have either not discovered him or dismissed him because his work was regional. After several unfortunate experiences with Life and Look he ignored their inquiries. He did not need a New York publishing house because he had his own. He never seemed interested in courting the New York museums and critics.

Even without such recognition, Bodine undoubtedly exceeded his own goals. He was acknowledged a truly great photographer whose style influenced pictorial photography. He was not only a photographer but an artist. He probably was the best recorder of his time and place. And he became a legend in his own lifetime.

When Mrs. Harold Duane Jacobs traveled to Bangalore, India, the first question asked of her was, “You’re from Baltimore? Then you must know Aubrey Bodine!” A 13-year-old girl wrote to the editor of the Sun in 1955 and referred to the Sunday Sun by saying, “I especially enjoy A. Aubrey Bodine’s section of the paper.” A trade publication put it this way, “One of Maryland’s best known products, like its oysters and crab cakes, is the photography of A. Aubrey Bodine.”

In the Forties the Sun published a news story about a note found in a bottle floating in Middle River. The note read, “I’m marooned on an island in Middle River. My ship sank. Call the Sunpapers and Mr. Bodine. Or call my closest relatives.” It was signed “Gary Kloch, Route 5, Chamberburg, Pa. CO3-3613.” It turned out to be a prank. Gary said he had written the note at the instigation of an older cousin. He explained, “Robert said that I should use Mr. Bodine’s name because if I was going to be photographed I might as well have the best photographer I could get.”

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