Porter's Early Years Porter's Introduction to Photography A Love for Science Committing to a Career in Art

Committing to a Career in Art

Lighthouse Barn, Eagle Island, Maine, Summer 1937 (P1990.54.738)
Porter returned to photography as a hobby after finishing medical school and soon became more interested in taking pictures than working in the laboratory. He was skilled at black-and-white photography and focused on a variety of subjects. In 1934 Porter's brother, Fairfield, a painter, arranged for him to meet Alfred Stieglitz, a famous New York City gallery owner, photographer, and arts promoter. At their first meeting, Stieglitz was not terribly impressed with Porter's work, but encouraged him to continue. Porter worked hard to improve his images and skills and continued to seek advice from Stieglitz.
1940s vintage Graphic View camera used by Porter for his bird photography Porter then purchased a new view camera that allowed him to take detailed images. In 1938, after showing some of his newest view camera photographs to Stieglitz, the gallery owner finally told Porter, “You have arrived, I want to show these.” He offered the young photographer an exhibition at his gallery. For Porter, this was a momentous occasion:

"To have work exhibited at An American Place [Stieglitz’s gallery] was an honor that overwhelmed me.  Under the stimulus of this recognition I realized at last that I must make the break with science.”  

With this exhibition, Porter quit medical research to become a full-time photographer. Soon thereafter, he turned from black-and-white photography to the new color photography medium. Many photographers of the time thought that color was difficult and could not express emotions or moods. Porter thought otherwise and became one of the first expert color photographers. Starting with birds, then images of other nature subjects, he spent more than forty years shooting color photographs – first near his home and later throughout the world.

Sheer Cliffs, Glen Canyon, Utah, September 1961 (P1990.51.5054.1) Pinion Jay, Tesuque, New Mexico, March 1961 (P1990.52.218)
Porter's Early Years Porter's Introduction to Photography A Love for Science Committing to a Career in Art
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2002 Amon Carter Museum