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Gertrude Kasebier

Gertrude Stanton was born to Quakers John and Muncy Boone Stanton in Fort Des Moines, Iowa on May 18, 1852. In 1860, the family moved to the Colorado Territory where John Stanton hoped to strike it rich in gold mining. After enjoying a lucrative four years in mining operations, they moved East, settling in Brooklyn, New York. From 1868 until 1870, Miss Stanton lived in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania while attending Moravian Seminary for You Ladies. In 1874, she married well-to-do German-born businessman Eduard Kasebier, and the couple settled in New Durham, New Jersey, where they raised three children.

Kasebier began taking photographs of her family, and this leisure activity quickly turned into a passion to learn about art. The 37-year-old wife and mother first studied painting at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, but her emphasis shifted to photography. In 1894, her photograph won a contest sponsored by the Quarterly Illustrator, much to the disdain of her painting colleagues, who were dismissive of photography as a legitimate art form. She fired back at her critics and demanded to know, "Why should not the camera as a medium for the interpretation of art as understood by painters, sculptors and draughtsmen, command respect?"

By 1894, she was touring Europe, making photographs of French villages that were inspired by Jean-Francois Millet's paintings. She studied chemistry in Germany so that she could develop professional processing techniques. Upon returning to New York, she began an apprenticeship with portrait photographer Samuel H. Lifshey, after which she opened her own Manhattan studio in the winter of 1898. Mrs. Kasebier took a series of acclaimed Native American photographs that may have been inspired by the Sioux tribes she saw as a child. She quickly caught the attention of influential photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who became an important benefactor. In a famous 1898 lecture delivered to the jury of the Photographic Salon of Philadelphia, Mrs. Kasebier championed photography as a perfect form of artistic expression for women.


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