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Studio, Ritz and Hastings

Time Period: 
1880-1890
Location: 
Boston
Biography: 

Earnest F. Ritz (1847-1890) & George H. Hastings (1849? -1931) formed their partnership in 1880. The union lasted until 1884, at which time both photographers went independent. Originally located at 58 Temple Street, the business "owing to a constantly increasing business" expanded in 1882 with a branch opening at 147 Tremont. Ritz presided over the former, Hastings the latter. In 1883 the business moved entirely to the Tremont site, but the photographers discovered that they preferred running separate domains. In 1884 they dissolved their commercial connection with Ritz returning to Temple Street and reactivating that studio.

Devoting themselves exclusively to portrait work, Ritz and Hastings quickly developed an enthusiastic following in Boston. A newspaper of 1883 exclaimed, "The work bearing their imprint is unique as an expression of the very highest form of photographic art yet accomplished. The posing, grouping, the arrangement of the surroundings, the artistic perception which compasses the slightest detail, are inimitable, and, in addition to a good portrait, there is, as a rule, infused by a spirit of individuality which is equaled by but few artists in the country." While theatrical portraiture was a sideline, rather than the main concern, of the business, the posing of the performers certainly equaled New York standards in terms of vitality and novelty. This was perhaps to be expected, since Ritz refined his skills in a Gotham studio.

A Swede by birth, Ritz came to the United States as a boy, settling with his parents in Boston. As a teenager he learned photography working as a studio assistant with A.M. Hardy. Ambitious, he left Hardy, obtaining a better position and higher compensation working as an operator for Abraham Bogardus in New York City.

Massachusetts native George H. Hastings established a studio in Newton, Massachusetts in the 1870s before joining with Ritz. Among his novelties as a young photographer were bringing his outfit into a sitter's home for a "home portrait." A sociable, ambitious man, he was the driving force in the expansion of the partnership. Once the two men separated, he immediately began building his business, securing Dartmouth College as a client in 1885. He also began group portraits of Boston baseball teams and players, the genre by which he is best known among current collectors of photographica. By 1891 he had been elected President of the Photographers' Association of America, in 1897 the president of the Photographers' Club of New England, and when this organization evolved into the Photographers' Association of New England, he became perpetual secretary. In 1919 he assumed control of the Chickering Studio. Though active as a camera artist in the 1880s and '90s, his duties became largely administrative after the turn of the 20th century.

Upon Ritz's death in June of 1890, his studio and archive became the property of his assistants "Macorquodale & Burleigh" who continued the business announcing themselves in advertisements of 1891 as "Successors to Ritz." Hastings, ever one to exploit news, began advertising his connection to Ritz which prompted an injunction in 1894 against such use.

NOTES: Obituary, Boston Journal (Jun 5, 1890), 4. Illustrated Boston, http://www.archive.org/stream/illustratedbosto00amer#page/182/mode/2up, 182. Expansion Notice, Boston Herald (Mar 12, 1881), 4. "Ritz & Hastings," Boston Journal (Dec 7, 1880), 3. "Ritz & Hastings Portraits," Boston Herald (Nov 24, 1883), 6. "Artistic Photography," Boston Daily Advertiser (Apr 8, 1891). "Photographer’s Club of New England," Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin 28 (1897), 202. "No Right to Use the Name," Boston Herald (Jun 13, 1894), 10. David S. Shields/ALS