Successful photographer Aime Dupont was born in Belgium in 1842. After graduating from Liege's School of Mines, he went to Paris and worked for a few years developing his skills as a portrait photographer at the Maison Walery studio. Mr. Dupont proved to be equally talented as a sculptor, and produced several important busts, including that of Elihu B. Washburne, who was at the time the U.S. Minister to France under President Ulysses S. Grant. While living in France, Mr. Dupont met American Etta A. Greer, a native of Pennsylvania who spent most of her childhood in Paris. The couple married and later had a son, Albert Greer Dupont.
Unrelenting financial hardships forced Mr. Dupont and his bride to move from Paris to the United States in 1886. Together, they opened Studio A. Dupont on 547 Fifth Avenue. The portrait studio became a huge success and quickly developed an elite clientele. Mr. Dupont's combination of creativity and a charismatic personality won both critical and commercial praise. The Duponts were an impressive team, with Mme. Dupont looking after the financial side of the business, leaving Mr. Dupont free to focus solely upon his art. His perfectionism was legendary, and so was his handling of difficult customers. According to one famous story, after the photographer completed a successful sitting with a beautiful woman, the woman's friend also wanted to pose for Mr. Dupont. After receiving her proofs, the woman expressed her disapproval with the results and demanded another sitting. Afterwards, the woman again rejected the proofs, stating they were nothing like her friend's photographs. The photographer's calm demeanor finally broke, and he emphatically declared, "Ah, Madame, I cannot make chicken fricassee out of beef!"
Mr. Dupont's eye for beauty and understanding of distance as an aesthetic tool distinguished his photographs. Actors and actresses were particularly fond of the distance effects because it concealed any visible imperfections without the need for retouching. When asked his rules for producing exquisite photographs, Mr. Dupont observed that no preparation was needed beyond selecting attractive attire and that while tall and slender individuals can be posed any way, special care must be taken to photograph short, plump individuals in standing poses.
When Mr. Dupont suddenly became ill shortly before an important portrait sitting, his supportive wife stepped in despite having no experience taking pictures. However, the years she spent working with her husband and learning about the subtle nuances of line and lighting compensated for her lack of experience. Aime Dupont died on February 16, 1900, but Mme. Dupont continued operating the Fifth Avenue studio and even opened a second studio. She was later joined by her son Albert, but without the creative impetus of Aime Dupont, the studios began struggling, and an important client, the Metropolitan Opera House, hired its own in-house photographer. Sadly, the firm was plunged into bankruptcy, but although Studio A. Dupont no longer exists, the sculptures and photographs of Aime Dupont remain fitting tributes to his artistry.
1900 Anthony's Photographic Bulletin, Vol. XXXI (New York: E. & H. T. Anthony & Co.), p. 68.
1900 The Professional and Amateur Photographer, Vol. V (Buffalo, NY: Professional Photographer Publishing Co.), p. 79.
1900 The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer, Volume XXIV (St. Louis, MO: Mrs. Fitzgibbon-Clark), pp. 172-273.
1913 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Volume L (New York: Edward L. Wilson), pp. 213, 420.
1916 National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XV (New York: James T. White & Company), pp. 134-135.
1920 Abel's Photographic Weekly, Vol. XXV (Cleveland: The Abel Publishing Company), p. 550.
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