“Elementary, my dear Watson.” J.H. Kent cabinet card

Cabinet Card. Private Collection.

Circa 1892. Cabinet Card. Private Collection.

I was on a frustrating hunt for a caped gentleman and was happy to finally find this fellow (I don’t know why those are hard to find!). There’s this cloudy effect going on and it looks like it is original of the photo, but it could be some discoloration due to time. Intentional or not, I do think it makes this cabinet card look like the man was standing outside on a foggy morning! The gentleman is IDed as Dean Smith on the back.

A close up of Mr. Smith, and a little more on J.H. Kent the photographer after the cut.

Aw...he's pretty too :)

Aw…doesn’t Mr. Smith look so properly Victorian?

Photographer info on back

Photographer info on back

Photographer: J.H. Kent. 24 State Street. Rochester, N.Y.

Looking at the card’s beveled gold edges this was taken around the early 1890s. The typography is free of the art nouveau embellishments of the period, but then this is J.H.Kent (1827-1910) and he had a clean style people today still find very classy. He didn’t crowd his pictures, instead choosing to solely focus on the face of the sitter. It makes sense his logo would be clean too.

When J.H. Kent took this picture he was in his eighties, an acclaimed photographer for over three decades and owned one of the most successful and prolific studios in the US. He had in his possession an outstanding collection of 130,000 negatives and employed eight assistants. In 1883 he became the third president of the Photographer’s Association of America and was vice-president of Kodak in Rochester.

I love the cabinet cards of J.H. Kent. All are very tastefully done and focus on the face using a single spare prop (if any) and a plain backdrop. Here’s an excerpt of a speech he gave to fellow photographers. One thing that will never change over time is human nature, and photographers still apply this trick of the trade today.

When your sitter is in the chair do not manipulate him and twist him this way and that way until you make him nervous; some people will stand it, but many will not. Engage him in conversation, converse with him on something that will interest him, get him in the best possible mood, and at the same time watch the light and the position of the head that will give the finest lines. A person cannot stand here, and have a good line here and another one there. Expose when the expression is right and most pleasant. Catch it in the shortest possible time and you will have a pleasant picture. I would rather give a man a good, pleasant picture than a first-class, exact picture, because it pleases him better.

The British Journal of Photography. Sept. 14, 1883.


2 responses to ““Elementary, my dear Watson.” J.H. Kent cabinet card

  • summertime75

    Nice cabinet card with a very relaxed sitter.

    It’s difficult to tell about the “fogging” if it were due to light filtering onto the glass plate then it would be dark or perhaps the developing process went slightly wrong although I doubt that any professional photographer would allow a damaged picture to leave their studio which leaves damage to the print, possible through storage. which ever it is, it is certainly an interesting addition to your collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  • bowlersandhighcollars

    Yes, it’s likely discoloration through storage. No matter though! I bought another from J H Kent too. Can’t wait to get it!

    Liked by 1 person

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