James “Jimmy” Hare was born in London, England on October 3, 1856. His father, George, was a successful camera maker, and so he was introduced to the relatively new art of photography at an early age. In 1871, after a year at London’s St. John’s College, the young man ended his formal education to apprentice at his father’s camera manufacturing shop. The 1870s were a decade of tremendous change for the fledgling medium. Gelatin dry plates were overtaking the labor-intensive wet-collodion plates that had been the standard for more than 20 years. Cameras were also becoming more compact, much to the delight of Jimmy Hare and the disdain of George Hare. It is believed the junior Hare’s insistence the company begin capitalizing on the handheld camera market that was responsible for professional discord between father and son.
In 1879, Mr. Hare left his father’s company and began working for a manufacturer of cameras and telephones. He also began independently producing handheld cameras for John Henry Dallmeyer, the universally acclaimed lens maker, an association that would last for several years. These small, efficient cameras became Mr. Hare’s specialty and his industry tools of choice. Mr. Hare’s personal life also underwent profound change when he married Ellen Crapper on August 2, 1879. Ten years’ later, the Hares moved to the United States, where Mr. Hare joined a camera equipment firm in New York City as an advisor. After a year, however, he left to manufacture his own custom-made cameras. Mr. Hare, always interested in the latest technology, became one of the nation’s leading experts on flash photography, which was not without incident. During a Madison Square Garden political rally featuring perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker, which Mr. Hare covered for Collier’s Weekly, the small blast generated by his portable flash lamp (which Mr. Hare and his cousin had smuggled in), created panic among the crowds who feared a bomb had exploded. According to Mr. Hare, his flash-related injuries caused by the magnesium powder were so commonplace, that he “had become adept at their treatment and resigned to their occurrence.”
Mr. Hare’s association with Collier’s (which shortened its name in the early twentieth century) transformed the one-time camera maker into a famous and respected photojournalist. He was on the scene of such major world events as the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, the Mexican Revolution )1910-1920), and covered the Wright brothers’ aviation experiments in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina primarily from a hot air balloon. It was Mr. Hare’s camera that verified the Wright flying ‘myth’ was indeed a fact. He also was such a frequent correspondent during World War I, his employer boasted that “wherever there is an army in the field… there, too, is a man from Collier’s.”
Mr. Hare, who continued designing cameras and developing more user-friendly photographic techniques when not out in the field, preferred using one of his own homemade cameras to any of the well-known (and considerably more expensive) consumer devices. Jimmy Hare died at his daughter’s home in Teaneck, New Jersey on June 24, 1946 a mere three months before his 90th birthday. A true innovator whose name has largely been forgotten, it was Jimmy Hare who pioneered the international transition to wet-plate photography and from large-format cameras to compact, handheld cameras. His collection of negatives, prints, and lantern slides are currently housed at the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
1921 The Camera, Vol. XXV (Philadelphia, PA: The Camera Publishing Company), p. 614.
1914 Colliers, Vol. LIII (New York: P. F. Collier and Son), p. 44.
2013 Fellows Find: Jimmy Hare Photography Collection Reveals Early Photojournalism History by John Mraz (URL: http://sites.utexas.edu/ransomcentermagazine/2013/12/19/fellows-find-jimmy-hare).
2017 Flash!: Photography, Writing, and Surprising Illumination by Kate Flint (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press), pp. 175, 178.
2017 Foulois, Fort Sam Houston at the Front Lines Developing Aerial Photography, Reconnaissance by Steve Elliott (URL: http://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/Article/1090742/foulois-fort-sam-houston-at-the-front-lines-developing-aerial-photography-recon).
1978 Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them by John Faber (New York: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. 20.
2017 James “Jimmy” Hare, Carrying out the Wounded During the Fighting at San Juan, c. 1914, Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin (URL: https://www.slideshare.net/alexawheeler/ppt-ch07-marien4e205396).
2003 Mediated and Stolen Imagery (URL: http://thispublicaddress.com/tPA3/2003/10/jimmy_hare_thief.html).
2006 Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien (London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.), p. 227.
2006 Photography in Japan 1853-1912 by Terry Bennett (North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing), p. 288.
Photojournalist: The Career of Jimmy Hare by Lewis L. Gould and Richard Greffe (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press), pp. 5-6.
1997 A Stephen Crane Encyclopedia by Stanley Wertheim (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press), p. 144.
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