Born in 1856 in Hamelin, Germany, Karl August Reinhold Thiele received his education in his hometown. After college, he relocated to Hanover (or Hannover), where he served an apprenticeship with daguerreotypist, portrait painter, and master composite printer Friedrich Karl Wunder. Here, Mr. Thiele gained considerable lithographic expertise and learned a great deal about composition photography, which he would later apply in his own portrait studio. In 1878, he moved to London to join the firm of William Henry Prestwich until health reasons prompted a return to Germany, where he worked for crippled Viennese refugee photographer F. Plate in Hamburg.
Returning to London in 1880, Mr. Thiele became a colorist and later an operator at George Swan Nottage's London Stereoscopic Company. Along with fellow staff photographer William England, Mr. Thiele traveled to various locales photographing views and subjects that were then reproduced commercially. Mr. Thiele was one of the earliest photojournalists, and his photograph of the Tower Bridge opening in 1894 serves as an impressive example.
Around 1896 (some reports claim the year was 1894), Mr. Thiele opened his own portrait studio on Chancery Lane, operating as Symmons and Thiele. The studio specialized in sports photography, but later expanded its repertoire to include important news events. Mr. Thiele's press photographs of boat races, football games, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and the funeral of onetime British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone in 1898 were published in the Daily Graphic and other London newspapers. He also became an accomplished military photographer, and is believed to have recorded the first known behind-the scenes' images of naval life (both in the field and at camp) for Black and White. In 1899, Mr. Thiele was commissioned by the Daily Graphic to cover the Boer War. For nine months, he followed the battles in an ox-drawn wagon. His camera of choice for combat photographs was a 10 x 8” plate camera fitted with a Dallmeyer telephoto lens. Unfortunately, however, the editorial staff at the Daily Graphic thought some of Mr. Thiele's photographs were too graphic for the public, and were not published.
In addition to his acclaimed fieldwork, Mr. Thiele was also known for his portrait flashlight photography. The method he developed enabled him to photograph entire factory assembly lines in sections. The flashlight enhanced the natural daylight, which allowed the photographer to achieve full exposure without posing the subjects or interrupt their work. His photographs of Spratt Biscuit Factory baking rooms reflect an innovative use of flashlight photography.
Despite his frequent travel, Mr. Thiele was a devoted family man. He and his wife Lily were the proud parents of six children - one son and five daughters. Reinhold Thiele died at his residence in the London borough of Islington on April 21, 1921.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 488.
100 Days in Photographs: Pivotal Events That Changed the World (Washington, DC: National Geographic), p. 60.
1899 The Photogram, Vol. VI (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), pp. 356-359.
1907 The Tower Bridge (London: Carl Hentschel, Ltd.).
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