George Mountain Edmondson was born to George William and Mary Jane Mountain Edmondson in Norwalk, Ohio on August 23, 1866. His father was an Englishman who moved his family to America to establish himself as a photographer. After receiving a public school education, the son became his father's studio apprentice at the age of 14. During the late 1880s, Mr. Edmondson set out on his own, moving to Cleveland to work as an operator assistant for well-known local photographer James F. Ryder. While he learned about the art of photography from the senior Edmondson, the young man was educated in its technical aspects by Mr. Ryder. He proved to be a stellar pupil, and his impressive bromide paper enlargements won several prizes for his employer.
After the retirement of Charles Wilber (or Wilbur), E. Decker sought a partner who was as knowledgeable in photography as a business as he was in the art, and found a perfect replacement in young George Mountain Edmondson. He became a full partner in the Decker Studio, and within six years he became sole proprietor upon Mr. Decker's retirement. Under Mr. Edmondson's leadership, the firm outgrew its 1862 Euclid Avenue location and moved to 2362 Euclid Avenue in 1900. The following year, Mr. Edmondson married Wilhelmina Neason, and together they would have two children, George Jr. and Ivy Jane.
Mr. Edmondson focused primarily upon his first love, portrait photography, but also expanded his repertoire to include color photography and the new early nineteenth-century sensation of in home portraits. His insistence upon simplicity became legendary. Mr. Edmondson was more concerned with his sitter than on equipment. Using little more than an eight-tube studio portrait skylight (Cooper Hewitt), the photographer established a genuine rapport with his subject. In one of his speeches before members of the Photographers' Association of America, Mr. Edmondson urged, “Do not give the impression of being fussy. It tends only to annoy the sitter and to prevent spontaneity of expression.” He further relied heavily upon inspiration, and his approach to portraiture mirrored that of an improvisational musician. The results were stunning and uniquely original portraits that revealed the spiritual and emotional essence of Mr. Edmondson's sitters.
Actively involved in promoting photography in his hometown and elsewhere, Mr. Edmondson served as the president of the Photographers' Association of Ohio, was named president of the Photographers' Association of America in 1902, and was also an active member of the Professional Photographers' Association of New York. In later years, he and his family moved to Venice, Florida where 82-year-old George Mountain Edmondson died on November 8, 1948.
1918 A History of Cleveland and its Environs: Biography, Vol. III (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company), pp. 468-469.
1910 A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical (Cleveland: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.), p. 1004.
1998 Ohio Photographers: 1839-1900 (Nevada City, CA: Carl Mautz Publishing),, p. 14.
1916 Photo-Era Magazine, Vol. XXXVI (Boston: Wilfred A. French), p. 196.
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