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Edwin Bower Hesser's Strange and Arty Journey

Edwin Bower Hesser’s  Strange and Arty  Journey

David S. Shields

Edwin Bower Hesser (1893-1962) was among to first to vibrate sympathetically with Alfred Cheney Johnston’s photographic presentations of the Ziegfeld Follies girls after they became widely available in 1917. Hesser, after a career as a theatrical impresario, manager of New York’s first movie palace, movie scenario writer, movie actor, director, and producer, military officer, and educator, became in 1919 became a photographer largely because of Johnston’s art.[i] “I started from New York for California, determined to break into the field of art portraiture.  At that time Mr. Alfred Cheney Johnston was the undisputed leader in the photographing of beautiful women.  I met him through my friend, Miss Anita Stewart, the ‘movie’ star—I told him how five years of war   . .    . had disrupted my plans for a career as a painter, and my theory that an artist could express with the camera almost every emotion and mood.  He agreed enthusiastically and showed me dozens of creations—including some nude figures that were exquisitely beautiful.  Mr. Johnston was kind enough to suggest the make of my first  lens—and I will never forget his words,    when he said Hesser, you have the right idea.  If you regard photography as an art, and refuse to commercialize it, you will succeed.”[ii]

Inspired by Johnston’s portraits and nudes, Hesser determined to follow in his footsteps becoming a visualizer of feminine beauty. Within three years, he opened studios in New York and Los Angeles, affiliated with First National film studio, and became Hollywood’s foremost art photographer of women.  He periodically did still work, particularly during the mid-1920s for Mack Sennett,  but found it distasteful. Throughout the 1920s, he emulated Johnston by concentrating on portraiture, artistic nudes, and fashion photography.  His innovation lay in his realization that southern California’s embrace of the physical culture philosophy required the nude to be associated with health and nature in order to be acceptable.  Consequently, he shot nudes outdoors in Griffith Park and various secluded beaches when in Southern California and indoors in his studio when in New York City.  In the face of censorship and police harassment, Hesser insisted on the artistry of his work, publishing a monthly periodical featuring his art studies.  Hesser Arts Monthly. The first of his magazines appeared in 1922, revitalizing the genre that Napoleon Sarony had pioneered in his Sarony’s Living Pictures magazines of 1894-96.  Hesser’s monthly  called into existence the world of “art magazines,” that burgeoned over the course of the decade. Johnston, Carlo Leonetti, John DeMirjian, Debarron Studio, G. Maillard Kesslere, and other significant figures in the photographic world would publish in these non-subscription monthlies.[iii]

When Hesser became a photographer in 1919, he was not unschooled. Trained as a fine artist at the Art Institute of Chicago (1910), Edwin B. Hesser  mastered photography as an adjunct to the traditional curriculum in draughtsmanship and painting. Hugely ambitious, and possessing a taste for novelty, he contacted the Kinemacolor cinematic production company in London and volunteered himself as a N.Y. agent for their color motion pictures.   The first successful color movie process, Kinemacolor, employed red and green filters over a black and white tonal base, creating to the eyes of audiences from 1906-1916 a luridly exotic visual world.[iv]  A documentary of the Coronation of King George V played to packed houses at the Herald Square Theatre in New York City in the summer of 1911.[v]  In autumn of 1911 Hesser managed the Kinemacolor Theatre on 40th Street in Manhattan, the former Mendelssohn Hall, an electrified  1,200 auditorium designed by Robert H. Robertson. Hesser presided over the first of the great movie houses, predating New York’s Regent (1,800 capacity—1913) and Strand (3,000 capacity-1914) by two years.[vi]  He charged $1.00 per seat, an extraordinary sum contrasted to the 15 cents that was the norm for motion pictures in the city.  So long as the Kinemacolor Company could supply product, the Theatre did brisk business.  Highlights of the 1911-1912 season included “The Indian Durbar greeting King George V,” “Nature’s Wonders,” “The Burial of the Battleship Maine,” “Royal Horse Show,” “Unveiling of the Victoria Memorial,” and one photo-play: “Oedipus Rex” with live actors speaking in synchrony with the screen action.[vii]  Unfortunately the cumbersome production and inefficiency in managing projects forced Kinemacolor to resort to small scale projects—supplying illustrative movies of butterflies for Lillian Russell lectures on how to remain beautiful or  brief film inserts for stage plays.[viii]  High ticket prices, the lack of new product, and the Motion Picture Patent Company Monopoly’s ban on supplying product doomed the Kinemacolor Theatre which went dark before the end of 1912.  Kinemacolor dispensed with Hesser’s services.

Undaunted, Hesser corralled an assortment of New York opera singers, instrumentalists, and conductor Arturo Bovi of the Cuban National Opera for a barnstorming tour intended “to spread the gospel of grand opera” to the second rank cities of the republic.[ix]  “The Grand Opera Festival” toured for the autumn months in 1912, 1913, and 1914 until the New York season began.  When the opera talent was occupied, Hesser toured other attractions.  He adopted one of the Kinemacolor marketing strategies—staging an education event illustrated with novel photography. In January 1913, Hesser began a tour with J. Townsend Russell of “picture readings” of Longfellow’s Tales of a Wayside Inn.  “Mr. Townsend recites the poem, accompanied by a string orchestra, while the illustrating pictures are thrown on the screen.“[x]  (The illustration of magazine stories with photographs would not take place until  1916.)  He next sponsored Roald Amundsen’s public lectures in New York entitled “How I Discovered the South Pole.” News of the death of Scott in Antartica fueled an intense public curiosity, particularly for the motion pictures illustrating Amundsen’s adventure.

On February 3, 1915, Hesser incorporated the “Hesser Motion Picture Corporation” in New York City with a capitalization of $50,000.[xi]  $50,000 was a pittance to underwrite launching a production company. Yet Hesser had a plan.  He would get out of New York City, venturing into virgin territory, a city with ambitions and an inferiority complex, and he would, a la Kimemacolor, work education into the project. Even before he had incorporated, he had selected the city and pitch.  On January 31, 1915 an ad appeared in the Atlanta Constitution announcing the opening of the “HESSER SCHOOL of MOTION PICTURE ACTING.” This academy would offer instructions in “every detail of the technique of Motion Picture Acting” under Edwin Bower Hesser, “The Famous Director who is to produce Special Feature Films in Atlanta for the Hesser Motion Picture Corporation.”  Doors opened on February 7th, Hesser having selected 20 of the 200 applicants as pupils.  In an interview with local reporters, Hesser implied that his movies would be made with student talent, the first scheduled film being a three-reeler, “The Beauty Ball,” to a scenario of his own composition.  It would be shot at an open air studio erected on the roof of the Hotel Imperial.  In fact, Hesser began shooting on location for a five-reel society drama entitled “Husband or Lover,” and crew, cast (including seven of his students), and elegantly attired self were regularly seen by thousands trooping through the streets of the city. [Illus. 8-10]  When the production wrapped in late March, 1915, Hesser announced his intention to locate his production permanently in the city, and build a series of four-reel release around leading lady Elaine Ivey.  The School announced applications open for the second class of acting pupils.[xii] 

The plot of Hesser’s film, to judge by the synopsis provided by the Atlanta Constitution, was improbable and melodramatic, as was the norm for photo plays of the mid-1910s:  “Elaine, a pretty young college girl, has been careless with the money entrusted to her as class treasurer, and putting it with her own money, has spent some of it.  The news of her father’s death comes in the middle of a midnight ‘feast’ in her room.  The next morning, just as she is about to leave for home, she discovers that she is $100 short in her accounts, and determines to ask Jack one of her suitors, to help her out.  He does so, on condition that she marry him immediately.  From the moment when she becomes his wife, he abuses her frightfully.  Though she tries her best to make him happy, Jack continues his cruelty, which become even more severe after he enters a counterfeiting plot. Elaine meets Karl, a young artist, and falls in love with him, though she remains true to her husband in every respect.  Jack, becoming jealous of Karl, implicates him in the counterfeiting plot by a faked letter, and to protect Elaine, Karle refuses to put in any defense, and is sent to prison.”[xiii] The injustice is finally righted and in a climactic fight seen, Jack falls off a precipice at Stone Mountain.

Hesser was fortunate to have purchased a new model Pathe movie camera while production was underway, for no one would have advanced him credit after the premier of “Husband or Lover.”  The drama, if one is to read behind the humorous asides of an anonymous Atlanta reviewer, was amateurish and wooden, suffering particularly from the inability of the charming leading lady to embody strong emotions.[xiv] Hesser quickly finished shooting on his four reel follow-up, “The White Coat,” a drama also unfortunately starring Miss Ivey, and decamped for New York. The Hesser School closed its doors permanently.  In the wake of the director’s hasty departure, there was more than disappointment by would-be Atlanta actors and actresses.   “All the while he and Mrs. Hesser were living at the Imperial hotel in lavish style.  Upon his departure he owed the hotel $140.  From New York the management received a letter explaining that Mr. Hesser had not been starred by any of the big eastern picture studios as speedily as he had expected, and that he could only pay his bill in five reels of ‘The Plaid Coast,’ a drama he produced here with the aid of Atlanta men and girls, students of the Hesser school.”[xv] “The White Coat” premiered on August 1, 1915.[xvi]  Ivey’s name was not mentioned in the ad, which trumpeted the appearance of “The Most Beautiful Girl in Atlanta,” Almeda Holcombe and a cast of well-known local personalities.  Holcome played the movie’s vamp and provided the highlight of the film when she nearly drowned as a boat capsized during filming. 

In the face of failure, Hesser responded with typical energy.  He joined the American Legion of the Canadian Army with a Captain’s Commission. He served as photographer for the 213th Battalion. With the American entry into World War I, Hesser transferred his appointment to the Signal Reserve Corps, where he served briefly as an officer in the Av. Concentration Camp in Dallas before being transferred to Washington, D. C.[xvii]  While on active duty he composed the screen play of “For the Freedom of the World,” (Goldwyn) the story of a gentleman who renounces idleness, enlists and serves in France.  His wife disguises herself as a nurse and follows him.  Starring Elmo Lincoln and Barbara Castleton it premiered in late March 1918 to laudatory reviews, largely for its patriotic sentiment.[xviii] He also directed a neoclassical fantasy entitled “The Triumph of Venus,” a late entry into the field of allegorical classic nude motion pictures.  Hesser’s duties as a Signal Corps officer included taking motion pictures of land operations. He also organized the Corp’s still archive.[xix] His inclination toward motion pictures is still in evidence late in 1918, when he screens several of his own creation as featured entertainments at the huge “Pre-War Ball” in New York City, held on December 8. He decommissioned in 1919 and pondered which path to take as a civilian—fine artist, photographer, motion picture writer. With characteristic ambition, Hesser decided upon all three.

In 1920 he had his fateful meeting with Alfred Cheney Johnston that determined him to find artistic expression in photography. He set up his first photographic studio in 1920, in New York managed by  an artist whom Hesser met during  his service in the World War, the decorated Italian war veteran, Nino Vayana. Almost in the same month as his Johnston, Hesser trekked to Los Angeles, intent on breaking into the movie business. He found his quickest entry the industry was as a scenario writer and shorts producer for First National. He composed with J. Grubb Alexander the screen play for the 1921 mystery “Not Guilty” (First National, Sidney Franklin, Director). First National’s determination to move much of its production to Hollywood had alerted Hesser to the shift of artistic gravitation in the photographic arts world to the West Coast. His ambition was to get out of writing and into publicity.  While crafting stories, he began doing portrait work for First National.  Because his life style tended toward extravagance and the income from motion picture work could not support it, he concurrently worked freelance as a photographer for the Los Angeles Examiner and established a home studio. Frank Bangs moved west at the end of 1920 at the behest of Richard Barthelmes and supplanted Hesser in First National’s publicity department. Hesser compensated by contracting with Brewster publications in Brooklyn to supply portraits for Motion Picture Classic and Shadowland, two of the most lavish cinema and arts magazines of the Jazz Age.

1921 was Hesser’s breakthrough year as a entertainment portraitist.  He placed a headshot of Phyllis Haver in the January issue of Shadowland and immediately became a hot commodity among magazine editors and art directors. In the next six months he would place images in Pictureplay, Pantomime, Movie Weekly, Motion Picture Classic, Film Stories, Motion Picture, Theatre, and Photoplay. In 1921 he published portraits of 30 female stars as illustrations for 73 articles, with flapper Colleen Moore, Florence Vidor, and Katharine MacDonald being the most saleable personalities, securing four features each. Appearances in Brewster Publishing magazines—Shadowland or Motion Picture Classic  accounted for half of his business. He was the most prominently featured photographer in the May, August, September, and October Classics, appearing in six stories per issue.  What made such an impression on the editors?  Hesser gave women—even plain and middle-aged women—an erotic charge.  He specialized in bust shots with rounded bare shoulders, back-lit hair to surround in the head in a halo, a pictorial focus upon the sitters’ eyes. [Illus. 8-11] He modulated the toning in the prints, avoiding stark contrasts, and seeking a palpable three-dimensionality of the arms, body, chin, and cheeks.  Backgrounds were minimized.  Costume was optional.  Like Alfred Cheney Johnston, he made extensive use of drapes.  His women rarely seemed imperious, aloof, cruel, or narcissistic.  They were posed to appear coy, charming, candidly and attentively direct, sometimes pensive, sometimes merry.  Most displayed a consciousness of their beauty.  He was less  fascinated by the profile shot than any major entertainment portraitist of the early 1920s.    

In 1922, just as Hollywood was undergoing a morality crackdown in the wake of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and the murder of William Desmond, Broadway began the great skin war between Jake Schubert and Earl Carroll to determine who could parade more chorines wearing less costume across the New York stage without having the police intervene. Schubert in the “Passing Show” had experimented with the “less is more” philosophy in his “Passing Show” Revues up through 1922. In 1923 he launched a new revue predicated on skin, “Artists and Models,” and Earl Carroll vied to outstrip Schubert in the pulchritude contest with his “Vanities.” In New York, a group of photographers began specializing in the portraits of undraped women, with Alfred Cheney Johnston defining the aesthetic high ground, and burlesque photographer Strand Studio defining the low.  While as many as seven Broadway photographers earned substantial income as practitioners of nude theatrical photography, no one in Hollywood was risking the wrath of the Hays Office by developing the market for nude starlet photography.[xx] The studios became extraordinarily strict about the presentation of persons under contract and had developed its own genre of sex-appeal photography, “cheesecake,” featuring young women in stockings and swimsuits showing a lot of leg.   Hesser, as a bicoastal photographer, knew that skin was the performative novelty driving theatrical entertainment in 1922.  His business plan was to shoot from the vast talent pool of aspiring actresses in southern California, publish his own magazine out of New York where skin was in, and title the periodical “Arts Monthly Pictorial.” Like the Schubert Brothers, he played on the popular identification of nudity with artistry, justifying the undraped figures as models for would be fine artists.   

The first issue of Arts Monthly Pictorial showed the influence of Brewster Publications design opulence.  It was oversized, typographically fashionable, and laid out with a daring juxtaposition of text to illustration.  Hesser’s nude studies intermingled with famous nudes from the canon of western art.  The other influence was a publication that advertised in the back pages of Shadowland and Motion Picture Classic--ALO Studies. “The complete collection of the celebrated ALO Studies, by Albert Arthur Allen, has been put into a handsome, bound volume.  This Art Edition De Luxe contains thirty two photographic creations of the nude, blending the purity and charm of youth amid luxuriant settings of nature.  Leather 4$. Cloth $2. Art Paper $1.  Allen Art Studios 4127 Broadway, Oakland, California. U.S.A.” Hesser recognized that an aura of artistry surrounded the plein aire nude.  He would make it a specialty in the Arts Monthly Pictorial.[xxi] [Illus. 8-12] Though the magazine sold exclusively through news-stands and the mails, it remained afloat in various incarnations through 1926.  The format shrank, the content lost much of its art history component over 1925, the title expanded and confessed its west coast origins as Edwin Bower Hesser’s Arts Monthly Pictorial from Hollywood. The price remained a quarter.  As the magazine, driven by newsstand sales and competition, became increasingly given over to the celebration of the female body, Hesser felt compelled to make periodic disclaimers: “The Editor wishes to emphasize the fact that Arts is not a magazine intended for the general reading public.  We feel that to be of the greatest benefit to working artists and students our captions must be so technical as to be entirely uninteresting to the layman—even though he or she may be abstractly interested in art and a lover of beauty.”  In its latter years the Pictorial’s publisher was Vern Frederick Cox, and its owners were Hesser, Cox, and H. A. Van Dusen, all of Los Angeles.  Though Hesser  featured his own nude studies, he also published work by the best figure photographers—Europeans such as Madame D’Ora and Frantiseck Driktol and his colleagues in New York, Alfred Cheney Johnston, John De Mirjian, and Debarron Studio.

Concurrent with his exploration of niche publishing, Hesser continued his lucrative portrait work, where he made a specialty of richly toned bust-length portraits, and expanded into advertising work.

If Hesser’s professional life prospered, his personal life began in 1928 to spin out of control.  In 1928 he was arrested for suspicion of narcotics peddling, battery, and impersonating a police officer in connection with the death of starlet Helen St. Clair Evans, who was murdered by her husband Arthur.  Arthur was Hesser’s close friend.  The woman’s parents claimed that they were “roughly handled by Hesser when they made inquiry regarding the daughter’s death and were threatened with arrest, and were told by Hesser that he had been instructed by Capt. Knowles, one of the investigating police officers, ‘not to talk about the case.’”[xxii]  Hesser was fined. But the L.A.P.D., irked at the light penalty for impersonating an officer, put him on a watch list, that would eventually lead to a later arrest for possessing indecent materials in 1931, a charge that was thrown out by the L.A. magistrates. Throughout the period the Los Angeles Times reported Hesser’s travails with the law, it published portraits of his in their entertainment section.  The photographer felt more had to be done in order to recoup of his reputation.   In 1930, he became a director of the Civic Grand Opera, and generated substantial publicity when he announced his intention to stage “Rigoletto” using all California talent.[xxiii]  The performance was saved from near disaster when Georgia Stark, a colaratura in attendance, consented to mount the stage and substitute when the female lead failed to appear.[xxiv] 

While trying to make his name as an opera impresario, Hesser continued his career as a photographer and publisher of nude studies.  He generated content for three titles in 1930-31, all published by the Graphic Arts Corporation of Louisville, Kentucky: Artists’ Notebook, Studio Art Studies, and French Models.  The last purported to be “camera compositions . . . from the Paris studios of Gaston Dubois.”  It is probably material slated for these three series that the L. A. P. D. discovered on their raid.

As the stars seemed to align against Hesser in Los Angeles, he looked to change coasts again.  He married Margaret Watts, moved to New York, and hired on as The New York Times head of color photography.  Since the Kinemacolor days, Hesser had been fascinated with the technical problems surrounding making an inexpensive, stable, and realistic color photograph.  In the late 1920s he experimented with various film stocks and built cameras that could take high speed sequential pictures using three color filters.  At the New York Times he perfected his process for Hessercolor.  When his wife took off with Ridgeway Callow (who would later become a professional assistant director in Hollywood), Hesser returned to Hollywood with his invention, ready to conquer the publishing world.  He married his former model, Eva Cunningham, and enlisted her father’s mining wealth in launching the Hessercolor process. 

Much of the 1930s was spent in a eventually unsuccessful attempt to fight Kodak in creating the standard still color photographic system.  His crusade began promisingly.  In 1934, The International Photographer, the trade union journal of motion picture cinematographers and still photographers celebrated “The Wonders of Hessercolor:”

“The Hessercolor Camera is a mechanical affair, by which three pictures are made in rapid succession, with proper filters, to produce blue printing, yellow printing and red printing negatives.  These three negatives are taken in a total of less than three seconds; slight movement of the subjects, for instance, in a scene with many players, can easily be correcting in the printing.  The three negatives are printed separately on a new substance discovered and manufactured by Captain Hesser; impalpably thin, yet tough and flexible, it  makes registration easy and certain.  The printing of a picture, in the three colors, its superimpositing and final blendings—similar chemically to ‘firing’ of pottery—is a matter of half an hour’s laboratory work.  The final picture looks almost as if it were glazed; it has a very bright finish like decoration on china, making it particularly adaptable to reproduction in process plate engraving or any other commercial form of printing.  Hessercolor pictures have been reproduced in many leading national ads in the past year, while Captain Hesser was in charge of the natural color photographic department of the New York Times.”[xxv]

Throughout the 1930s Hesser attempted with minimal success to recruit and train photographers in his system.  His greatest success was had placing covers for magazines and publishing Hessercolor ads for food and household goods.  He shot Hessercolor stills for “Becky Sharpe” and “La Cucaracha” and a rather extensive series of head shots of female stars for use in magazines. [Illus. 8-13]  By the end of the decade the economies of scale that Kodacolor brought to bear crushed Hesser’s business, and a patent infringement suit nearly put him under.  Only Eva’s firm business sense and his own industry retooling as a Society photographer enabled him to survive the 1940s.

E. B. Hesser throughout his career explored the technology and chemistry of photography with restless energy.  He filled notebooks with experiments for various types of developers. His experimentation had long term bad effects that he did not envision; many of his prints from the late 1920s show a penchant for yellowing, a sign that the silver nitrite was not chemically stabilized in the developing process.  He also experimented with visual effects.   In the later 1930s, he became fascinated with William Mortensen’s work with process screens at his Long Beach Studio and tried out numbers of darkroom techniques that transformed a photographic image to make it look like an engraving.  When World War II came, Hesser’s talent for technological innovation was directed toward the creation of an aerial color camera and aircraft insulation.  After the war, Hesser resumed his career as a color photographer for magazines, using Kodachrome film. 

The great test of color for Hesser, also for Johnston whose color experiments of the 1920s remain largely unknown, and for a host of camera artists of the early 20th century was replicating the tone of human skin.  In black and white the nude could lose its human plushness and approximate stone in form and texture.  Chromolithography, oleography, and a host of short-lived experiments in color printing sought to supply the desired tint to the tone in the nineteenth century. Photography immediately embraced the project of devising an economic and accurate color process. Despite an enormous amount of experimentation, progress was slow, and the ‘solutions’  problematic.  The instability of photographic media such as the Lumiere Brothers Autochromes occasioned great frustration among its practitioners and a large percentage of ruined exposures.  Karl Struss, a master of the color Autochrome, viewed it an inadequate vehicle for the massive exposure the motion picture publicity required.  Kinemacolor produced a candy glaze of color making pale skin tones orangey and dark skins tones muddy.  Nevertheless, any departure from the back, white, gray, and sepia norm was deemed eye-catching, and just as theatrical release prints frequently had tinted sections and sometimes two-color Hergesheimer color sections, the high end magazines approximated the irrational coloring, with Shadowland printing portraits and a few stills on cyan-tined pages or yellowish stock.  Certain photographic studios experimented with hand coloring and painting stills—Hendrick Sartov at Hoover Art Gallery won ecstatic praise for his; none survives.  An artisinal caste of photographic hand-tinters—many of them married women such as Mrs. Fannie Bruce who kept a coloring office at 424 S. Broadway--sprang up in the greater Los Angeles area, producing multiple copies of certain prints, some in startlingly subtle color.  Nelson Evans hired out many of them in large volume publicity campaigns for Hope Hampton, Pauline Frederick, and Barbara LaMarr. [Illua. 8-14]The images had great novelty value, but their expense kept photographic technologists, such as Hesser, working perpetually on a process that would mechanize the production of color images. The surviving Hessercolor stills for “Becky Sharpe” now seem sad tokens of the struggle. As with most early color prints, they have suffered from a degradation of  quality.  Nevertheless, one can assess several things about them: they were few in number; they were all shot at 15-20 foot distance; and they made color look lurid, with purply dark blues and ruddy reds.  Flesh—the cast was all Caucasian--looked cheddary.  

The pale skin that fascinated Hesser and Johnston never reproduced true.  Only their mutual friend and camera artist, Nickolas Muray, produced color nudes in the 1920s that showed the vital elasticity of skin, and his taste ran to darker bodies than either Johnston or Hesser. 

Despite an unrelenting desire to visualize the motion picture world in color, there was no undeniably artistic color or still portrait photography generated by the motion picture industry during the silent era.  At best there were effective symbolic renderings of color, such as hell fire red stills in D. W. Griffith’s “The Sorrows of Satan.” The color photo still and portrait only came into its own in the 1930s. Then Carbro and Kodacolor prints of star faces and star bodies by Henry Waxman, Paul Hesse, and the later Hesser would become one of the signs of the new in the sound era. 

 


[i] The Edwin Bower Hesser Papers are housed in the special collections division of Young Research Library, UCLA: Collection 1071. 

[ii] Edwin Bower Hesser, Editorial, Hesser’s Art Monthly(August 1925), p. 27. What Johnston may have meant by ‘commercial’ is something of a mystery, since he was greatly involved in advertising imagery, theatrical publicity, and the portrait market.  Perhaps commercialism was understood to be the subordination of one’s expressive sensibility to the desires and dictates of a client. 

[iii] While Hesser ignited the Art magazine boom in the 1920s, it must be said that there was one very conspicuous precedent for his periodical series.  Napoleon Sarony in the mid 1890s published Life Studies, a periodical devoted to painted photographs, primarily nude females in imaginary landscapes.  Widely noticed and praised, it was part of the 1890s aesthetic advocacy of the nude, and linked the nude and art in no uncertain terms in its textual component. 

[iv] David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960 (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1981), p. 282.

[v] Edwin Bower Hesser, The Coronation of their most gracious majesties King George V. and Mary of Great Britain and Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas (New York: The Kinemacolor Theatre, [1911]). This program written by Hesser identifies him as the theater manager. 

[vi] Edward Carleton Knight, “Notes of the Theater,” Town and Country (December 23, 1911), p. 3423.

[vii] “Oedipus Rex in Pictures; Sophocles’s Tragedy at Kinemacolor Theatre, Greet Reads Text,” New York Times (March 5, 1912), p. 11.

[viii] Catalogue of Kinemacolor Film Subjects: Animated Scenes in their Actual Colors ([N.P.]: Natural Color Kinemacolor Co., Ltd., 1912). 

[ix] “Grand Opera Festival,” The Daily News (Frederick, MD, 10-29-1913), p. 8.

[x] New York Times(January 14, 1913), p. 8

[xi] “New Incorporations,” New York Times (February 3, 1915), p. 17.

[xii] “Hesser will soon take pictures in Atlanta,” Atlanta Constitution (February 14, 1915), p. A9; “Hesser stars work producing Pictures,” Atlanta Constitution (February 21, 1915), p. C8.

[xiii] “Atlanta-Made Film at the Montgomery,” Atlanta Constitution (April 18, 1915), p. A10.

[xiv] Atlanta Constitution (April 25, 1915), p. A11

[xv] Atlanta Constitution (Jul 29, 1915).

[xvi] Britt Craig, “Behind the Screens,” Atlanta Constitution (October 21, 1915), p. 13.

[xvii] New York Times (February 28, 1918), p. 19.

[xviii] “Casino—‘For the Freedom of the Word,’” Washington Post (March 25, 1918), p. 9.

[xix] Manuscript biography of E. B. Hesser composed by the cataloguers of the Hesser papers, Young Research, Library, U.C.L.A. The largest archive of Hesser photographs on the WWW was compiled by Vlad Fomin for the Historical Ziegfeld Group: http://historicalziegfeld.multiply.com/photos/album/401/Edwin_Bower_Hesser._A-L

[xx] Witzel shot nudes in the early 1920s, but these never appeared in print.  Harold Dean Carsey was the one Hollywood studio photographer who regularly supplied the art magazines of the late 1920s—from 1925 to 1930—after Hesser had established the market. 

[xxi] A more distant model was Napoleon Sarony’s Living Pictures of the 1890s, which featured many open air nudes. 

[xxii] Los Angeles Times (April 14, 1928), p. 18.

[xxiii] “Plans laid for Opera,” Los Angeles Times (December 7, 1930), p. B26; “Eight Operas to be Given, Los Angeles Times (Nov. 20, 1930), p. b13.

[xxiv] “Georgia Stark Proves Trouper; Coloratura Leaves Audience to Sing Opera Role,” Los Angeles Times(Jan. 16, 1931), p. A7.

[xxv] “The Wonders of Hessercolor,” The International Photographer  (January 1934), p. 8.