Cuban painter and graphic artist-turned photographer, Antonio E. Moreno noticed the success of his countryman Jose Maria Mora, and in 1881 took over a derelict studio on 14th Street. The business office was run by co-director Jose Lopez. From 1881 to 1884 business grew steadily, because of the solidity of Moreno's picture-making, mastery of photographic chemistry, and the development of several visual signatures, including painted cloud effects in backgrounds. He also attracted notice in the professional community. An active exhibiter at the meetings of the Association of Operative Photographers of New York, and the meetings of the American Institute, Moreno's work garnered unstinting praise. "Has anything more unique been exhibited in the American Institute Fairs?" asked one commentator in 1884.
Part of his success lay in his collaborators. When he first established his studio, he drew his staff from Mexico with Spanish cameraman Antonio Urda and printer Domingo Costello. Urda, however proved a volatile and self-destructive individual, eventually committing suicide by drinking developer fluid in the studio after failing to murder Costello. Thereafter Moreno hired English-speaking Europeans as his associates. 1893 Moreno enticed the brilliant photographic printer Nahum Luboshez away from Falk. He also secured the talented cameraman, A.L. Simpson, an energetic figure in photographic circles who emerged from the ranks of the amateur photographers, pioneered the illustration of songs by slides for sing-alongs in theaters, and made a habit of photographing any fire that occurred in the New York metropolitan area. For Moreno he handled outdoor and indoor photography.
In the 1890s, Moreno partnered with Taber Art Co. to publish a series of genre scenes and allegories featuring beautiful female models. Well posed, precisely lit, and tasteful, they enjoyed support from magazine editors, including Walter E. Woodbury of the American Photographic Annual. Moreno was always alert for innovations in printing chemistry. When the vogue for platinum prints with their nuanced toning ran through eastern studios in the 1890s, Moreno mastered making prints on nepera paper. When Thomas Manly perfected ozotype printing of carbon images, Moreno experimented and exhibited examples at the New England Convention of 1903 to much praise.
The business, located at a new premises on 5th Avenue, remained an important source of performing arts portraiture for a quarter of a century.
NOTES: "Trade," The Photo-gram 2 (1895), 242. "The New England Convention," Wilson’s Photographic Magazine 40 (1903), 481. "A Quarrelsome Man's Suicide," New York Times (Apr 27, 1885), 2. John A. Tennant, "Photographic Days," The Photographic Journal of America vol 31 (1894), 132-33. "Artistic Song Slides," The Moving Picture World 4 (1909), 267. David S. Shields/ALS