Frank B. Clench was born in Niagara, Canada in 1838. No biographical records of his early life exist until his arrival in Lockport, New York in 1863, where he established his first photographic studio. He subsequently married Lockport native Mary S. Smith, and soon established himself as one of Lockport's finest regional photographers. Extremely dismayed by the lowly income his colleagues generated because of the extravagant lengths they went to in order to satisfy their clientele, Mr. Clench enforced an ironclad business policy. First, he decided upon views that would most harmoniously accommodate the sitter's taste prior to the sitting, from which he would not deviate until a suitable negative was produced. If there were several equally satisfactory negatives, he would only show one of those to the customer, and explain that prices were based upon a single sitting and proof only. Should they request additional sittings, they would have to pay extra for them. In addition to his portraiture, he also became known for his stereophonic views of Lockport.
In 1883, Mr. Clench would make his most famous photographic contribution. At the time, the 'cameo' photograph, while quite stylish, was not particularly popular due to its inferior construction. With its convex surface, the cameo was extremely susceptible to soiling. With his 'plaque' photographic method, Mr. Clench produced a concave shape for his pictures with a convex rim surrounding the outer surface, which was as fashionable as the cameo, but far less susceptible to discoloration or damage. Its 4 x 4" size fit within the parameters of the popular cabinet-size card and allowed the artist to customize its borders by utilizing a "double-print" method. At each end of the photo, the words "The Plaque" appeared at the top, with the photographer's name and monogram printed at the bottom. The plaque gained immediate popularity within the photographic community because it allowed struggling professionals to increase their prices and profits. To the traditionalists who decried the plaque, Mr. Clench responded, "Why is it so few changes or novelties are introduced by photographers? The same styles of years ago are still in vogue... Every other line of business has its fashionable novelties. We want more fashion, nicer settings for our work, and we don't want it all in the frame. We want the picture worth as much as the frame. The plaque promises to be the thing."
After more than three successful decades in Lockport, Mr. Clench relocated to Fairport, where he opened a gallery on the Deal Block of North Main Street in 1889. He developed a reputation of being the foremost local photographer, specializing in babies and young children, school classes, and sports teams. His work was frequently featured in the prestigious Wilson's Photographic Magazine. Mary Clench died in 1892, and four years later, Mr. Clench again found marital happiness with Lucy S. Howard. In 1901, the couple moved to Madison, Georgia, but the photographer's increasingly frail health led to his retirement and return to Fairport in July 1914. On November 1, 1914, 76-year-old F. B. Clench died. His plaque photographs have become highly sought after collectibles.
1914 Bulletin of Photography, Vol. XV (Philadelphia: Frank V. Chambers), p. 663.
1914 The Fairport Herald (Fairport, NY: Fairport Publishing Company), p. 5.
2001 Perinton, Fairport, and the Erie Canal (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing), p. 57.
1878 Photographic Mosaics (Philadelphia: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 82-83.
1883 Photographic Times and American Photographer, Vol. XIII (New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company), pp. xliv, 144.
1883 The Progress of Photography Since the Year 1879 (Philadelphia: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 335-338.
2014 Richard D. Sheaff: Ephemera Backmarks Album (URL: http://www.sheaff-ephemera.com/list/backmarks_album/f_b_clench.html).
2006 Stereoscopic Views of Lockport, New York (URL: http://nypl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/11707980052907_stereoscopic_views_of_lockport,_new_york).
2014 A Trio of Fairport 19th Century Entrepreneurs (URL: http://www.perinton.org/Data/Documents/Historian/columns/Trio%20of%20Entrepreneurs%20one.pdf).
1894 Wilson's Cyclopedic Photography (New York: Edward L. Wilson), p. 291.
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