Clarence M. Hayes was born to Enos and Emeline Griffith Hayes on March 31, 1863 (or 1862, according to some sources) in Chardon, Ohio. After receiving a public school education until the age of 17, Mr. Hayes became the apprentice of Painesville photographer H. W. Tibbals. After five years as an apprentice, he relocated to Detroit, where he was quickly hired by successful studio owner Frank N. Tomlinson. Under Mr. Tomlinson's employ, he further honed his portraiture, developing, and retouching skills. On October 13, 1885, Mr. Hayes married his mentor's daughter, Emma L. Tibbals, and the couple had one child, Alberta Ellen. Mr. Tomlinson sold his company to San Francisco studio operator Edwin H. Husher in 1890, and shortly thereafter Mr. Hayes' services were terminated. He moved his young family to St. Paul, Minnesota to manage F. Jay Haynes' gallery, but returned to Detroit within a year, where he opened C. M. Hayes & Company, and rapidly established his business as formidable competition to Edwin Husher.
Mr. Hayes was an accomplished technician, but also spent considerable time promoting the art of photography locally. In 1894, he organized a yearly art photography exhibition in Detroit, which included his artistic color representation of prominent local citizens in madonna poses. He also became an active member of the National Photographers' Association, serving at various times as secretary, treasurer, and president. He founded the Michigan Photographers Association and also served as president of the Michigan State Association. He later served as president of Professional Photographers Association of America. Mr. Hayes' exhibits gained international acclaim in 1896 after winning a medal at the German National Convention of Photographers and the prestigious medal of honor at the National Convention of the Photographers of the United States.
In 1898, the Detroit Museum of Art commissioned Mr. Hayes to photograph 400 of Detroit's most illustrious residents to be placed on permanent display at the museum. The indefatiguable photographer also organized photographic conventions, which he felt should emphasize art and technique rather than prizes that tended to reward convention rather than creativity. He also took to the lecture circuit to sing the praises of faster lenses and shutters, with his personal favorite being the Sluter #5 Rapid Portrait Lens and Prosch shutter. Such was Mr. Hayes' national prominence as a photographer he was granted a rare opportunity to pose former President Theodore Roosevelt. Hoping to capture a natural pose, the photographer asked the one-time Rough Rider if he had a particular life motto. Mr. Roosevelt responded with lines from former Senator John J. Ingalls' poem "Opportunity": "He who grasps the hand of opportunity is a master of destiny." Mr. Hayes replied, "I have acted on that motto and have taken your picture." Mr. Roosevelt observed Mr. Hayes was as skilled a trapper as he was a photographer.
After retiring to Palm Beach in 1935, Mr. Hayes faded into obscurity, focusing primarily upon his passion for automobiles. The date of his death is unknown, but C. M. Hayes’ photographic contributions to his adopted hometown of Detroit remain well known and celebrated.
1999 Broadway Photographs (URL: http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/studios-tomlinson-hayes).
1898 Landmarks of Detroit: A History of the City (Detroit: The Evening News Association), pp. 720-721.
1916 Photographers' Association News, Vol. III (Washington, DC: Photographers Association of America), p. 168.
1900 The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer, Vol. XXIV (St. Louis, MO: Mrs. Fitzgibbon-Clark), pp. 171-172, 388.
1896 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. XXXIII (New York: Edward L. Wilson), p. 352.
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