Bodine at the Baltimore Sunday Sun
In 1920, age fourteen, A. Aubrey Bodine went to work at the Baltimore Sunpapers as a messenger.
At age fifteen, he transferred to the commercial art department.
He assisted a staff photographer and Bodine took a number of the pictures.
His career of shooting pictures for the Baltimore Sunpapers started here.
Bodine was also taking pictures on his own time with his own box camera.
The Sun's photographic department was next to the commercial art department.
Bodine, when permitted, mixed photographers’ chemicals, developed pictures and made prints.
This is where and when his dark room work began.
In 1924, Bodine, age 18, was promoted to commercial photographer and his formal
photography career at the Sunday Sun began.
Bodine illustrated ads that ran in the photogravure section of the Sunday Sun.
Bodine also shot pictures that appealed to him personally;
a number of these pictures were contributed to the Sunday Sun photogravure
feature section without credit or payment.
Bodine became Baltimore Sunday Sun feature photographer in 1927, age twenty-one.
The Sunday Sun ran an assortment of local feature stories and pictures about recent events.
The influences of the painterly pictorialist aesthetic and the subject-oriented
newspaper profession formed the basis of Bodine's photographic legacy.
In 1946, the Sunpapers created the Sunday Sun Magazine.
This new format told readers in story form what was going on in and around Maryland,
featuring new techniques in writing and design.
The new magazine made extensive use of photographs.
Bodine was chief photographer and named Photographic Director of the magazine.
Bodine photographed postwar mid-Atlantic America, urban and rural.
His subject matter included: maritime; ports; heavy industry; assorted occupations;
trains; recreation; people; local political personalities and more.
Bodine’s most popular feature in the magazine was the “Maryland Gallery,”
a weekly full page Bodine picture. The first Maryland Gallery picture appeared on December 5, 1948.
The premiere article explained Bodine's gallery: ''These pictures are more than photographs.
They are Bodines—genuine works of art produced over a period of twenty years by A. Aubrey Bodine,
photographic director of the Magazine.
Many of them have repeatedly taken honors in international salon exhibitions.”
Few, if any, photo-journalists have had such extensive exposure on the pages of a weekly publication.
Bodine’s formal schooling ended at the eighth grade after one year at
St. Paul’s Episcopal School for boys in Baltimore.
He attended the Maryland Institute Evening School for two years, 1932-33 and 1933-34,
studying ‘General Design’. Photography was not part of his curriculum.
Bodine believed these two years greatly influenced and benefited his photography.
Photographic Society of America (PSA)
Bodine joined the Baltimore Camera Club (Photographic Club of Baltimore) in 1924.
Members met and reviewed each other's photographs; they shared information on techniques of developing and printing.
The club sponsored local exhibitions, called salons, and participated in national and international photographic competitions.
Formal instruction in photography was limited; the camera clubs provided a learning opportunity
and a forum for theoretical discussion.
From his beginning, Bodine was motivated to seek artistic outlets for his work.
He was a charter member of the re-organized Photographic Society of America (PSA),
the umbrella organization affiliated with camera clubs, throughout the United States
and foreign countries. The initial functions of the PSA centered on:
publishing a journal to circulate photography information; nationally publicizing the
art of photography; and standardizing photography salon exhibitions.
Articles about Pictorialism were published regularly.
Bodine believed that salon exhibition work was the biggest factor in developing his artistry.
He was one of the first newspapermen to take exhibition work seriously;
most of his salon prints came from newspaper assignments.
He felt that his newspaper subject matter gave breadth and vigor to his photography.
He entered top shows and exhibited a wide variety of prints, not just his proven winners.
By the end of his first decade at the Sun, Bodine was an award-winning PSA pictorialist exhibitor.
In 1946 he was named a Fellow of the Photographic Society of America “for outstanding press
and marine photography, inspirational teaching and creative pictorial work.”
In 1965 Bodine was named an Honorary Fellow of that society, praising 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 and is awarded only for unique or outstanding achievement in photography;
it had been awarded to only 20 others (by 1965), including Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston.
In the mid-fifties Bodine focused on entering foreign salons.
He exhibited in 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. In the 60’s Bodine’s salon work wound down.
His health was failing and he needed to finish his fourth book, The Face of Virginia.
National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) began with a 1945 conference of
eighteen photographers from the major United States newspapers. A. Aubrey Bodine represented the Baltimore Sun.
He worked closely with the NPPA’s first president, Joseph Costa, a New York Daily News photographer,
in the forming of a national organization to promote respect and recognition for the profession of photojournalism.
Costa, later said of Bodine “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.”
In 1948, the NPPA inaugurated its annual awards for photographic achievements.
Bodine’s images competed with pictures of hard “spot” news. His photographs were published in a newspaper,
but they were from a different genre that set him apart from the majority of NPPA members.
He was a feature photographer working with the advantage of a public that was thrilled when Bodine
arrived to take a picture. He had none of the daily pressures to produce timely "spot" news photos.
His editors gave him flexibility with photo assignments.
In 1953 Bodine was named a Fellow of the National Press Photographers’ Association
"in recognition of his outstanding achievement as photographer, pictorialist and exhibitor
in photographic salons throughout the world and for the attention and recognition which such
success has brought to the profession of photojournalism." Bodine was first photographer to have
a Fellowship in both the NPPA and the Photographic Society of America (PSA).
In 1957, Bodine was named "Newspaper-Magazine Photographer of the Year," a distinction created by the judges
specifically for A. Aubrey Bodine. The NPPA April, 1957 newsletter elaborated on the new award:
"Bodine had the highest point score in the whole competition. …however the judges felt a distinction
had to be made between a photographer covering assignments for Sunday feature use like Bodine,
and one covering general assignments—daily spot-news events."
During his exhibition years Bodine gave freely of his time to serve as a salon judge.
During his career he judged in practically every major Eastern show. He was interested
in, and frequently commented on all aspects of judging photography contests.
Recognition for Bodine
Bodine’s work gained visibility outside of Maryland and the PSA.
Bodine images appeared in the first three issues of U.S. Camera: "Two Nuns" in the 1935
premiere issue, an untitled industrial image in 1936, and "Contour Plowing" in 1937.
Organized in New York, with T. J. Maloney as editor and Edward Steichen guiding the
selection of images, U.S. Camera contained full-page illustrations by amateurs as well
as respected professional photographers. Bodine was represented among a cross section
of the photographic elite, notably, Cecil Beaton, Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott,
Imogen Cunningham, George Hurrell, Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston,
and Brett Weston. This exposure attracted the attention of editors at Harper's and
Look and potentially could have led to wider recognition for his work. Bodine had neither
the temperament nor the inclination to take advantage of this opportunity. His employment
at the Baltimore Sun and his private commercial work required his full attention.
Bodine’s best known picture was taken while he was finishing a Sun magazine story on oyster dredging.
‘Choptank Oyster Dredgers’ won first prize, a $5,000 savings bond, as ‘best black and white picture’
in a 1949 Popular Photography magazine contest which attracted 51,038 entries. Next year’s Popular
Photography’s contest, which drew 53,554 entries, Bodine’s “Early Morning Charge” won second prize.
In 1965 Bodine had a one man show in Moscow that was the first exchange of one-man photography
exhibits between the United States and the U.S.S.R. Bodine’s U.S.S.R. counterpart was Vladimir
Shakhovskoi, the “dean” of Russian photographers.
Bodine and Associates
Bodine & Associates was formed in 1951.
Its purpose was to publish Bodine pictures in book form.
His first book, My Maryland was published in 1952,
followed by Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater published in 1954,
The Face of Maryland, published in 1961 and The Face of Virginia published in 1963.
Bodine’s books were printed in Unitone, a printing technique where fine screen halftones
are over-printed in such a way as to give an extra dimension to the pictures.
The national lithographers’ trade association picked My Maryland in 1952 and
Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater in 1954 as the ‘best lithographed book’ of their respective years.
Two other Bodine books were A Guide to Baltimore and Annapolis, 1957, with text by Harold A. Williams
and Baltimore Today, 1969, another guide book with text by James F. Waesche.
Bodine's Baltimore: Forty-six Years in the Life of a City, was published posthumously in 1973.
Bodine’s equipment and techniques
Bodine’s equipment was not elaborate. His first camera was a 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 Kodak.
In his early newspaper days he had a 4 by 5 Speed Graflex with a Verito lens.
He went to a Kodak 5 by 7 view camera with five different lenses.
For some work he carried a Speed Graphic.
In the early 1960’s he began using a Hasselblad camera for newspaper assignments.
He found it easy to carry, an important factor when illness sapped his strength.
His favorite camera was a 5 by 7 Linhof. He used this for pictorial work.
Its large negative was ideal for the detailed retouching he did.
He kept his equipment in the trunk of his car. In addition to cameras and tripods,
he 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 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 him figure his 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 preferred early morning light. He got special effects by aiming his camera at the early morning sun.
He said that on a hazy morning with the sun just over the horizon it was possible to shoot into it (the sun)
without ruining the picture with glare. He went out at night, particularly if it was snowing or raining.
To the editor of Minicam Photography he wrote: “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.
Bodine in the darkroom
What Bodine did in his darkroom he taught himself by experimentation;
much of what he did was unorthodox. He mixed chemicals by intuition that came from experience,
not by following directions on the container. Chemicals recommended by the manufacturer for
certain conditions he used in other ways. Bodine used a variety of processes. At one time the
PSA circulated a one-man Bodine show that included eleven different processes. Among them were
carbros, gum bromides, multiple gums, bromoils, paper negatives and carbons. Finished exhibition
prints from his early period are predominantly in non-silver processes, particularly carbro, bromoil,
and gum-bi-chromate, and on a variety of paper surfaces. Heavy manipulation of the negative and final
print is evident in his work.
Bodine’s Photographic Enhancements
Bodine was a master of improving his pictures by dubbing in clouds.
He kept files of cloud negatives to be added to his prints of landscapes and water scenes.
He developed this technique out of an established nineteenth century pictorialist tradition.
To compensate for the limitations of their materials, pictorialists exposed negatives containing only
clouds and then double printing the final image, first for the landscape and then for the cloud detail.
Bodine made no secret of his use of cloud negatives. He wrote: "For years I have been successfully
printing in clouds and think nothing of printing clouds on regular routine assignments."
With such a technique he could also change the mood or even the time of day in an image.
A water scene printed with heavy clouds would appear to be from a negative taken late in the day.
The same negative could be printed with lighter clouds and give the appearance of morning or early afternoon.
Clouds were not the only elements Bodine added to his photographs. Silhouettes of birds,
particularly seagulls, were added to water scenes. To create a well-defined moon or sun,
Bodine placed an appropriate size coin on the paper during the darkroom exposure.
He added specks of white to simulate snow or rain in his photographs, frequently on the overall image,
or, in many instances, simply on certain areas. The snow piled on the ironwork in "Fells Point,
Baltimore" was totally added in the darkroom. He used paintbrush and dye to paint details onto
the negative for more moonlight reflecting on the water or when he felt additional white highlights
would be an improvement. To create a window or frame, he would add fish nets to the final image.
Summary of Bodine and his pictorialism
A. Aubrey Bodine balanced his attachment to a nineteenth-century aesthetic with
the daily requirements of a photojournalism. He was a photographic technician who continually
experimented with his medium to produce better prints and who maintained worldwide visibility
through his professional outlets at the Baltimore Sunday Sun, the PSA and the NPPA.
From this position, Bodine attained a national and international reputation as a salon exhibitor
and an award-winning newspaper photographer.
Bodine married Nancy Tait in 1944. He fathered one daughter, Jennifer Beatty Bodine.
After years of ill health Bodine suffered a fatal stroke in his darkroom at the Baltimore Sun and died on October 28, 1970.
Bodine’s Most Successful Exhibition Prints Based on Acceptances and Honors
Misty Harbor , 1955, ImageID
Baltimore Harbor Night , 1949, ImageID 31-040
Three Kittens , 1944, ImageID 32-110
Choptank Oyster Dredgers , 1948, ImageID 15-068
Crooked Trees , 1962, ImageID 02-028
Doris Hamlin Bowsprit , 1939, ImageID 18-049
Baltimore Harbor Day , 1945, ImageID
Ten Thousand Vinegar Barrels , 1945, ImageID 29-079
Susquehanna Herring Fishermen , 1944, ImageID 14-154
Mainsail Doris Hamlin , 1939, ImageID 18-091
Snow Park Avenue , 1948, ImageID 26-193
Greenspring Lane , 1948, ImageID 23-152
Snow Around Fence , 1957, ImageID 02-031
Bodine’s Important Images
Baltimore Harbor Night
Barns Liberty Road
Beggar at Howard Street
Blast Furnaces, Sparrows Point
Checkers Game, Crisfield
Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks
Chesapeake Bay Waterman
Choptank Oyster Dredgers
Early Morning Charge
Fells Point, Baltimore
Fisherman, Loch Raven
Fort Macon Beach
Gathering Maple Syrup
Half and Quarter Moons
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Hear My Prayer
H. L. Mencken
H. L. Mencken
H. L. Mencken
Iced In Spa Creek
Little White House
Long Dock, Baltimore
Mainsail Doris Hamlin
Mount Vernon Place
Nets, Nova Scotia
New Deal Barber Shop
Ocean City Pier
Ocean City Fish Dock
Overhauling the Mariner’s Friend
Oxen, Calvert County
Paratroopers Over Alabama
Pennsylvania Train Yard
Piling Copper Cakes
Pratt Street Dock
Rowing at Ebbtide
Skipjack Making a Lick
Snow Around Fence
Snow Park Avenue
Susquehanna Herring Fishermen
Symphony in Reflections
Symphony in Reflections II
Ten Thousand Vinegar Barrels
This Old Home
To Hell With It
Westport from Hanover Street Bridge
Wind Swept Corn Stalks
Books by A. Aubrey Bodine and date of publication
My Maryland (1952)
Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater (1954)
Face of Maryland (1961)
Face of Virginia (1963)
Guide to Baltimore and Annapolis (1957)
Baltimore Today (1969)
Forty Six Years in the Life of a City (1973)
Books by A. Aubrey Bodine, edited by Jennifer B. Bodine
Bodine’s Chesapeake Bay Country, (2005)
Bodine’s City, (2011)
Bodine’s Industry: The Dignity of Work, (2013)
Biographies of A. Aubrey Bodine
Ewing, Kathleen M. H. A. Aubrey Bodine Baltimore Pictorialist, 1906-1970. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.
Williams, Harold. Bodine, A Legend in His Time. Baltimore, Maryland: Bodine & Associates, Inc., 1971.