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F. B. Clench

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."

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