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Henry F. Holland

Time Period: 
1886-1900
Location: 
Boston
Biography: 

(1853?-1911?)

Henry F. Holland first emerged onto the Boston Photographic scene as partner with George P. Roberts in 1886 in a studio at 10 Temple Place. Holland & Roberts immediately distinguished themselves among portrait artists in the city by designing their own scenic back paintings and assembling a work force of twenty-five persons. The studio inhabited the Old Masonic Hall building, with a street elevator taking the client to the fourth floor parlor, an exhibition room for the finest of the studio's productions. On the fifth floor the graphic artists created pastel and crayon portraits, as well as miniatures on ivory. The sixth floor contained the waiting rooms that afforded a superb view of the Boston Common and Beacon Hill. The posing room, illuminated by two north-facing skylights, was spacious and curtained, except for its windows looking onto the roof of St. Paul's Church. "The Scenery for backgrounds, Moorish balconies, yachting scenes, palace ballustrades" were ranked on the south wall. Holland advertised it as "The Finest Studio in New England," a place where his motto, "Realism in Photography" was the guiding principle. In 1888 Roberts withdrew from the firm.

Among the twenty-five persons working for Holland was Odin Fritz, "a posing artist of superior merit," although he did not work for Holland long. Business troubles in 1890, perhaps caused by Holland's involvement with the Heliographic Printing Company, forced the photographer into bankruptcy. He reorganized and relocated to 611 Washington Street in July 1891, rebranding his business as "Ye Holland Studio." He installed his sons Thomas and C.E. as chief operators, presiding over a staff less than half of the size of that previously employed. The studio occupied the 6th floor of the building and claimed to possess the largest camera in New England. The new version of the studio emphasized its skill in group portraiture, marking a shift from celebrity to civic clientele.

Turning management of the studio over to his sons freed H.F. Holland to turn to another fascination. His years running the studio had given him extensive knowledge of technical issues surrounding electrical illumination. He formed the Freeman-Holland Company on 53 State Street, and in 1892 became general manager of the Boston office of the National Electric Manufacturing Company of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He sold dynamos to municipalities in the region from the Boston office. While he did not abandon his camera, he redirected its focus from human faces to machines, becoming one of the pioneer camera artists entranced by the beauty of technology.

NOTES: Moses King, "H. F. Holland," King's Hand Book of Boston (Boston: Moses King Corporation, 1889), 354. "At the Boston Office," The Electric World 21, 237. Advertisement, Boston Herald (Feb 5, 1888). "Business Troubles," Boston Herald (Mar 27, 1890), 2. Boston: its Finance, Commerce, and Literature (New York: A. F. Parsons, 1892), 109. David S. Shields/ALS