A Floridian, born in Tampa in April 1880, Eugene Hutchinson's family failed at orange planting and moved to Rockville, Indiana in 1884. The death of his father in 1888 and the remarriage of his mother prompted the removal of the family to Danville, Indiana, where he grew up and learned the art of photography. He apprenticed as a teenager with a Broadway society gallery, perhaps Joseph Hall, although later in life he claimed to have trained in the N.Y. studio of English born portraitist W.E. Histed.
Hutchinson began exhibiting in photographic salons in 1906 and moved to Chicago early in 1910 where he opened two offices. A literate man with a modernist sensibility, he mingled with Chicago's literati and captured them in portraiture. In the 1910s, he developed a fascination with dancers as subjects, cultivating enduring relationships with Anna Pavlova, Adolph Bolm, Ruth Page, and the Pavley-Oukrainsky dance troupe. Unlike Arnold Genthe and Maurice Goldberg, two other portraitists drawn to dance, Hutchinson rejected one source natural light in his pictures. During World War I, he began using portable lamps as back and side spots.
In 1922 a new graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, George Hurrell, who would later become the greatest of the Hollywood glamour photographers, came to study at Hutchinson's studio. In the same year, Hutchinson began to become fascinated with the visual aspects of industrial design. By the end of the decade, he had become a thoroughgoing adherent of the new machine aesthetic. Like Charles Sheeler and Margaret Bourke White, he began photographing factories, production lines, and patterned masses of manufactured products. He moved to New York in the 1930s and immersed himself in the latest camera technology. By the 1940s the workers who had appeared as ancillary figures in his industrial photographs throughout the 1930s disappeared. Hutchinson devoted his art to the abstract representation of textures. David S. Shields/ALS
At first a pictorialist in style, Hutchinson evolved over the course of the 1910s into performing arts photographer with an experimental approach to lighting and print formatting. He excelled at full-figure images of persons in motion. In the 1920s he became increasingly interested in pictorial patterning. In 1929 he suspended his society portraiture and became a midwestern chronicler of the machine aesthetic, with hard edge photos of factories and engines.