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Pirie MacDonald

Ian Pirie MacDonald was born in Chicago to Dr. George and Margaret MacDonald on January 27, 1867. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Troy, New York. His public education ended at the age of 11 when he began in a local iron foundry as a handy boy. Always interested in photography, he became an apprentice at Frank Forshew's Hudson studio in 1883, earning $4 a week. While there, he learned the popular wet plate processes of the day. After mastering their techniques, he opened his own Albany studio six years' later. In 1890, he had saved enough money to marry a local girl, Emilie Van Dusen.

Early in his career, Mr. MacDonald had displayed a talent for coaxing winning poses from children. Shortly thereafter, he began photographing women, who responded positively to his obsession with the slightest details. In 1892, he photographed landscapes for Phelps & Kellogg's published compilation, The Albany Rural Cemetery; its Beauties, its Memories. Soon, his photographic artistry was generating an impressive income few of his colleagues enjoyed. Shortly after opening a studio on New York City's fashionable Fifth Avenue, Fra Elbertus, a.k.a., Elbert Hubbard, soap salesman turned writer and art connoisseur, quipped, "Mr Pirie MacDonald... calls himself a Photographic Artist – and he is. He has more medals and gets higher prices than any photographer in America. His prices are as high as a church steeple."


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