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  Darius Kinsey

Darius Reynold "Dee" Kinsey was born to Edmund and Louisa McBride Kinsey in Marysville, Missouri on July 23, 1869. As a boy, he worked in the local coal mines, but would seize every opportunity to draw buildings and cows. However, sketching people proved more difficult, which sparked his interest in portrait photography. He decided to join his older brother Alfred in Snoqualmie, Washington, where there was an abundance of employment opportunities. After learning basic camera instruction from Mrs. Spalding (or Spaulding) in Seattle, Mr. Kinsey purchased a 6-1/2 X 8-1/2" camera and started his own photography business. He quickly landed a lucrative job taking pictures for the Seattle and Lake Shore Railroad Company. Shortly thereafter, he entered into a brief partnership with his brother Clark, which ended when Clark and another brother Clarence moved to the Yukon Territory at the height of the Klondike gold rush. Settling in Grand Forks, the siblings established the Kinsey & Kinsey photographic firm.

With little money to finance extended expeditions, Mr. Kinsey began photographing wedding parties and making family portraits. During one such outing, he met Tabitha Mae Pritts. The couple married in 1896, and Mrs. Kinsey became her husband"s darkroom assistant. They moved to Sedro-Woolley , Washington, and added a studio and skylight to their new home. A skilled craftsman and demanding perfectionist, Mr. Kinsey expected his wife to wash each print 16 times to prevent fading. After enjoying a modicum of success in portraiture, Mr. Kinsey moved his family to Seattle to pursue his desire to chronicle the growing Pacific Northwest logging industry, and ironically found himself in direct competition with his brother Clark. He experimented with various types of large format, panoramic, and stereoscopic cameras until he produced the most aesthetically pleasing results with Rochester Optical Company"s massive 20 X 24" Empire State view camera. However, the plateholder alone fitted with two glass plates weighed 25 pounds, and often had to be raised 10 to 12 feet to achieve the proper perspective. Eventually, Mr. Kinsey found success with the smaller and more transportable 11 X 14" Eastman view camera and a high extension tripod. He photographed every aspect of the logging process and daily life in the rugged logging camps. Sunshine and lack of a light meter required both precision and great patience on the photographer’s part to produce his incomparable plates.

Mr. Kinsey was always on the lookout for a high tree stump, upon which he could fashion a scaffold that would ensure distortion-free images. This was a high risk/great reward gamble, which the photographer was willing to take. However, in the fall of 1940, while climbing a stump, Mr. Kinsey fell and broke several ribs. This accident forced him to retire from outdoor photography, and the next five years were spent marketing the impressive number of print negatives he accumulated over his lengthy career. Seventy-five-year-old Darius Kinsey died in Sedro-Woolley on May 13, 1945. The nearly 5,000 negatives and hundreds of prints that comprise the Darius Kinsey collection reside at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art in Bellingham, Washington. More than 150 of Mr. Kinsey"s prints are also featured in the University of Washington"s digital collection.

2007 Darius Kinsey Photo Collection from Seattle to California to Bellingham (URL:

2013 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 799.

2014 Kinsey Brothers Photographs of the Lumber Industry and the Pacific Northwest, ca. 1890-1945 (URL:

1965 Photographers of the Frontier West by Ralph W. Andrews (New York: Bonanza Books), pp. 72-76.

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2015-04-20 20:02:01

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