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Finding Aid to the Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection, approximately 1908-1955
BANC PIC 1964.063-.064  
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternate Forms Available
  • Related Collections
  • Acquisition Information
  • Arrangement, Subject Description and Portrait Numbering
  • Note on Sources
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Physical Description Note

  • Contributing Institution: The Bancroft Library
    Title: Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection
    Creator: Hagemeyer, Johan
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1964.063-.064
    Physical Description: 6785 photographs (approximately 5,790 film negatives, approximately 925 photographic prints, approximately 70 glass negatives (representing approximately 5,235 unique images)) and 1500 digital objects : film and glass negatives
    Date (inclusive): approximately 1908-1955
    Abstract: The Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection comprises the bulk of what was the photographer's personal archive at the time of his death in 1962. The collection contains approximately 6,785 photographic prints and negatives, and spans from his earliest known amateur work of ca. 1908 to his later works of the mid-1950s. Portraiture predominates.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Language of Material: English.


    Collection is open for research by appointment only. Photographic prints and negatives are RESTRICTED due to need for special handling. Requests for use of originals must be approved by the appropriate curator.

    Publication Rights

    Johan Hagemeyer's copyright in this collection has been assigned to the University of California Regents. Only the photographs created by Johan Hagemeyer in this collection are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC-BY 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The following attribution is required for all uses of these photographs: © The Regents of the University of California, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. This work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection, BANC PIC 1964.063-.064, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital reproductions of selected images are available.

    Related Collections

    Title: Johan Hagemeyer Business Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: (BANC MSS C-G 272)

    Acquisition Information

    The Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection was received as a gift of David C. Hagemeyer, nephew of the photographer, in 1963.

    Arrangement, Subject Description and Portrait Numbering

    The Johan Hagemeyer Portrait Collection is arranged alphabetically by last name of subject. Dates of portrait sittings were transcribed, when available, from index cards in the Johan Hagemeyer Business Records (BANC MSS C-G 272). The Miscellaneous Photographs by Johan Hagemeyer collection was arranged during archival processing into series primarily reflecting the basic genre or subject matter of the imagesfor example "Urban Views, Architecture and Industry", "Residences and Studios of Johan Hagemeyer", etc. An exception is the "Early Works" series, which, regardless of subject matter, comprises his photographic output prior to his pursuing a professional career in the medium. Titles and descriptive captions were taken from various sources, including print versos, envelopes and sleeves originally accompanying the material, and other publications. It has not been verified that all such captions were created or intended by the photographer. Items with no accompanying identification were assigned capitions by the processing archivist. These supplied captions appear in brackets in the container listing.
    At the time of acquisition, items from the Johan Hagemeyer Portrait Collection were merged into the Portrait File of The Bancroft Library. This is an alphabetic file in which images are arranged by sitter's name. In cases where an individual is represented by more than one image, portrait numbers are assigned consecutively (e.g. Tina Modotti - 1, Tina Modotti - 2, Tina Modotti - 3, etc.). At the time The Bancroft Library acquired the Hagemeyer Collection, The Library had already acquired and numbered portraits of many individuals who are represented in it. There are therefore some individuals in the Hagemeyer collection whose portrait number range does not begin with no. 1, but rather with whichever number continued the consecutive order already established for the previously-owned portraits. The Hagemeyer collection's series of George Sterling portraits, for example, begins with portrait no. 7 as there were 6 portrait images of Sterling already owned by The Library. Any gaps in the number range of a given individual in this finding aid are thus likely to be the result of this numbering system and do not reflect any omission of items or errors in describing the collection.
    Researchers should note that dates for portrait sittings are available in the Johan Hagemeyer Business Records collection (BANC MSS C-G 272).

    Biography/Organization History

    Johan Hagemeyer was born into a working class family in Amsterdam, Holland on Whitsunday, June 1, 1884. Sickly from childhood, and self-described as the "black sheep" among his 4 siblings, the introspective Johan was very well-read and excelled at writing and drawing at a young age. Under pressure from his parents to aspire toward a higher social status, Johan left school in his mid-teens to join an insurance brokerage. Meanwhile, his intellectual curiosity - which ranged from literature and the arts to science and politics - led him to explore such topics as philosophical anarchism, vegetarianism, and religious mysticism. He also had a keen interest in botany, and soon abandoned his career in insurance to study horticulture. After compulsory service in the Dutch army - where he served as a marching flutist - and a brief return to brokerage, he enrolled in a horticultural college. It was during his studies here that he and his brothers Hendrik and Herman, also aspiring horticulturalists, decided to emigrate to the United States to pursue their ambitions in California.
    In 1911, after graduating with a degree in pomology, Hagemeyer left Holland for New York and eventually settled in California's Santa Clara Valley, where he found employment on the Edenvale ranch of Senator E.A. Hayes. During his first few years in California, he also worked in the botanical garden of the University of California, Berkeley, and contributed to the early culturing of avocados and dates on the Southern California farms of F.O. Popenoe.
    In the summer of 1916, after proving himself an able botanist, Hagemeyer was sent to Washington, D.C. to conduct botanical research for the U.S. Department of Horticulture. Although he arrived in the capitol with ambitions of enjoying a lifetime of world exploration, a bout of pneumonia soon convinced him that his frail, sickly constitution would probably not withstand the strenuous physical demands of his first chosen profession. While recuperating, Hagemeyer immersed himself in the many art and photography publications available at the Library of Congress. One periodical which especially impressed him was Camera Work, edited by Alfred Stieglitz. Very much drawn to music and the arts since his youth, Hagemeyer was primed to take up a new direction in life.
    In late 1916, just prior to his return to California - and despite having had little photographic experience - Hagemeyer visited Stieglitz's 291 salon in New York City. The two developed an immediate rapport, and the meeting proved to be decisive for Hagemeyer. "We talked," Hagemeyer later recalled, "and he practically, by way of speaking, made me follow photography. I had already gone overboard for it" (OHT 22).
    Back in California, Hagemeyer first apprenticed with a Berkeley-based commercial portrait photographer named McCullagh. Soon afterwards he moved south to Pasadena and in early 1918 met Edward Weston, already by then an accomplished photographer based in Tropico (now Glendale). The two took an immediate liking to each other and formed a friendship and working partnership that was of mutual benefit: Weston opened his home and studio to the upstart Hagemeyer, and Hagemeyer introduced the relatively unschooled Weston to new worlds of intellectual and aesthetic learning. The two would have a profound influence on each others' artistic development for years to come. (Arch. [see essays by Lorenz and Schaefer]).
    Hagemeyer's talent developed rapidly and by the early 1920s he was exhibiting his work in many important photographic salons and garnering much popular and critical acclaim. After moving to San Francisco at the end of World War One, Hagemeyer soon discovered the intellectual and artistic colony of Carmel-by-the-Sea. In 1923 he established his first studio in Carmel and would remain anchored there for over 20 years. In 1924 he established the town's first art gallery - based out of his studio - where he exhibited the works of local painters, sculptors and photographers and hosted very popular musical performances. Shortly thereafter Hagemeyer opened a second studio in San Francisco, whose clientele could be rivaled by that of Carmel only during the smaller town's summer vacation season.
    In 1927, he was appointed staff photographer of the artistic/literary magazine The San Franciscan. In 1929, Hagemeyer attempted to establish himself in Pasadena and Hollywood, but the onset of the Great Depression proved too great a financial obstacle. Nevertheless, he managed to enjoy a relatively successful and comfortable career during the lean years of the 1930s. During World War Two, Hagemeyer offered half-price discounts on portraits for soldiers stationed northeast of Carmel at Fort Ord. By war's end Hagemeyer had become disillusioned with the increasing commercialization of Carmel and in 1947 relocated to San Francisco. In 1950 he then moved to Burlingame and by 1952 he had settled in Berkeley, where he would spend his remaining years. Johan Hagemeyer died on May 20, 1962.
    Hagemeyer had no children and was never married. From the mid-1920s to the early 1930s he lived with the Carmel dancer Elsa Naess. From the mid-1930s he lived with writer Jane Bouse until her death in 1953. It was his relationship with Bouse that he considered "the most important, the most beautiful" of his life. (OHT 69)
    Notes on Aesthetic Development and Technical Practice
    Johan Hagemeyer's earliest surviving photographs date from ca. 1910 and feature carefully composed images of subjects and scenes in his immediate environs: family, friends, horticulture, the Dutch countryside. Little is known of his training in photography prior to his formative meeting with Stieglitz in 1916. After his visit to 291, his earliest training was in a Berkeley portrait studio. Also during this time he made the acquaintance of many of the West Coast photographers - most of them pictorialists, such as Anne Brigman - recommended to him by Stieglitz. In short time, Hagemeyer's desire to study photography, coupled with his acquaintances in intellectual and political circles, led him to the door of Edward Weston. Hagemeyer's professional partnership and intense personal friendship with Edward Weston were invaluable to his artistic development in countless ways, not the least of which was the argumentative aspect of their relationship as fellow photographers. (His now-legendary debates with Weston on the representative nature of photography are highly indicative of both their mutual respect as well as their increasingly conflicting approaches to their craft.) (Arch. [see essays by Lorenz and Schaefer])
    While Hagemeyer's photographic output throughout his career included a wide range of subject matter, Hagemeyer chiefly specialized in portraiture. And while his work displays an aesthetic maturation in step with many contemporary modernist trends in photography, Hagemeyer maintained some of the peculiar tendencies of the pictorialists - such as their painterly textures and moody tones - long after that aesthetic mode had gone out of vogue.
    Staunchly individualistic, Hagemeyer preferred to follow his own lead on aesthetic matters rather than join groups - such as f.64 - or be persuaded by the authority of more renowned figures - such as Stieglitz or Weston. In a 1922 Camera Craft article entitled Pictorial Interpretation, Hagemeyer expressed a range of sentiments regarding the artistic practice of photography that he would continue to re-echo throughout his career: "After all, it is that "seeing" in picture making, plus that indefinable something that is in every individual and which must be brought out that makes the result worthwhile. The individual touch, the idea or intent must be in everything we create...A picture in order to deserve that name must be a product of art, a product of an impulse to create, and creating is giving out something of yourself, so that product must of necessity show the essence of the producer, his or her individuality, imagination, etc...So, let us find ourselves, let us make the camera the medium of our own ideas, of imagination, of vision, of feeling, of inner relation upon things in the outer world. Let us give expression to the impulse within...Set your own personal standard. Do not follow, try and lead." (JHC 7)
    Hagemeyer had relatively little enthusiasm for the optical, chemical or other scientific aspects of photographic practice. Instead, he preferred to rely on less quantifiable, more intuitive means to achieve his ends (OHT 99-101). This is especially evident in Hagemeyer's portraiture, which demonstrates the photographer's keen pictorial sense and his ability to elicit and capture certain of his sitters' expressions which seem to reveal subtle and distinct qualities of their inner characters. Drawing on his affability and the breadth of his education, Hagemeyer sought during his sittings to establish a fertile rapport between photographer and subject: "And that is why it is easy for me to photograph a person. I find out what they are interested in and then I identify myself with it and I can talk about it. I enjoy that, and that is when I have really done it. They begin to feel that they are not being photographed, that it is just a visit and I happen to have quite unobtrusively a little camera there. It is not even in front of you, only a little while - and it goes so rapidly, just a moment. I never have to think of light because that is instinctive and composition is also instinctive with me." (OHT 89-90)
    His successful portraits of figures from such diverse fields as the arts, the sciences, and academia, as well as those of less distinguished persons, attest to his ability to establish and capture on film this moment of identification. San Francisco Chronicle art critic Alfred Frankenstein concisely summarized the salient qualities of Hagemeyer's work in a review of the photographer's one-man exhibit at San Francisco's deYoung Museum in 1938, when Hagemeyer's work was approaching its aesthetic maturity:
    His textures and colors run, rather, to dark-toned richness, but never, and rather miraculously, to the loss of clarity in the representation. In short, the man behind the camera has a painter's sense of the picture surface and a modern photographer's sense of the living, characteristic, unposed moment in the subject's life. (Arch. 19)
    Hagemeyer began his professional career using a 3 ¼ x 4 ½ inch Graflex camera. In 1930 be began experimenting with a 4 x 5 inch view camera, and from 1932 used the larger format almost exclusively. Hagemeyer always used orthochromatic film. He never experimented in color photography, considering it to be "too imperfect, too corny, too cheap, too hard" (OHT 99). With the exception of some early work in platinum and palladium, most of his prints are gelatin silver.

    Note on Sources

    List of abbreviations and sources:

    Hagemeyer, Johan, Johan Hagemeyer, Photographer : Oral History Transcript, tape-recorded interviews with Corinne Gilb; Berkeley : Regional Cultural History Project, University of California, 1956. (Collection no.: BANC MSS C-D 4013)
    Center for Creative Photography, Johan Hagemeyer, monograph issue of Research Series of The Archive (No. 16) Tucson : The Center, Regional Cultural History Project, University of California, June, 1982.
    Myers, Roger, and Judith Leckrone(comp.) Johan Hagemeyer Collection, Tucson : Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1985.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Johan Hagemeyer Photograph Collection comprises the bulk of what was the photographer's personal archive at the time of his death in 1962. The collection contains approximately 6,785 photographic prints and negatives, and spans from his earliest known amateur work of ca. 1908 to his later works of the mid-1950s. The collection has been divided into two sub-collections, one containing his portraiture (which forms the bulk of the collection), the other containing such types of work as landscapes, urban views and architectural studies. The overall collection represents a rich selection of Hagemeyer's work and displays significant insights into the photographer's working methods, aesthetic development, and social milieu.
    The Johan Hagemeyer Portrait Collection (BANC PIC 1964.063 - PIC) contains roughly 755 prints and 5,195 film negatives picturing approximately 480 different individuals. Many of the subjects pictured in the collection were well-known in the arts communities of Carmel and San Francisco. Others were prominent figures in such fields as the sciences or journalism. Among the more notable persons pictured in the collection are sculptor Beniamino Bufano, actor John Carradine, painter Salvador Dali, actress (and later politician) Helen Gahagan Douglas, physicist Albert Einstein, philanthropist Elise Stern Haas, singer Roland Hayes, dancer Michio Ito, poet Robinson Jeffers, physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, writer Henry Miller, photographer Tina Modotti, actor Vincent Price, educator Robert Gordon Sproul, journalist Lincoln Steffens, photographer - and close friend to Hagemeyer - Edward Weston, and tennis star Helen Wills. Also pictured are the two primary love interests of Hagemeyer's life - Jane Bouse and Elsa Naess. The collection contains a large number of portraits of Hagemeyer, most of which were taken by other photographers.
    The Miscellaneous Photographs by Johan Hagemeyer collection (BANC PIC 1964.064 - PIC) contains approximately 170 prints, 595 film negatives, and 70 glass plate negatives. The collection features a wide range of subject matter, including urban views, architecture, landscapes, works of art, still lifes, industrial views, ships, waterscapes, rural views, various residences and studios of Hagemeyer, and scenes from such locations as Death Valley, Virginia City, San Francisco, Carmel, and Berkeley. The glass plate negatives represent the earliest known photographic work of Hagemeyer. Among these early works - nearly all of which were made in Holland - are views of the Dutch countryside, family portraits, and scenes of horticultural practice.

    Physical Description Note

    Many of the prints in the collection bear such physical characteristics as the photographer's stamp and/or signature; inscribed captions and image dates; notations referring to print date, exposure, paper type, etc.; image re-touching; and the initials of various print technicians. Many prints also show traces - usually along the top edge of the verso - of the original black mounting paper often used by Hagemeyer. Many of the negatives have retained Hagemeyer's pencil re-touching and, like the prints, display notations, dates, and identification of subject matter. Such physical characteristics of the prints and negatives have been noted in the item-level descriptions herein.
    The attempt has also been made to generally describe the physical condition of the negatives and prints, especially those which display obvious signs of deterioration or damage. For film negatives, the term "minor deterioration" has been used to describe items which display relatively early stages of deterioration, while "major deterioration" refers to relatively advanced stages.
    At some point after acquiring the collection, the Bancroft Library duplicated a large number of the deteriorating original nitrate negatives for preservation purposes. (Such duplicates are referred to as "negative (copy)" in the finding aid.) Some of these original negatives were then disposed of, while others were retained. Thus many images in the collection are represented by both original and duplicate negatives.
    In 1982, approximately 70 prints from the collection were mounted and exhibited by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for the exhibit Johan Hagemeyer: Photographs 1918-1953. These prints have not been removed from their exhibition mounts and are shelved among the oversized pictorial material designated as "Size B".
    Copies exist for a small number of prints in each collection. These copies are not included in any of the item totals.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Authors, American--California--Portraits
    Berkeley (Calif.)--Pictorial works
    Carmel (Calif.)--Pictorial works
    Death Valley (Calif. and Nev.)--Pictorial works
    Netherlands--Pictorial works
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Pictorial works
    Virginia City (Nev.)--Pictorial works
    Glass negatives.
    Portrait photographs
    Bouse, Jane--Portraits
    Bufano, Beniamino, 1898-1970--Portraits
    Carradine, John--Portraits
    Dali, Salvador, 1904-1989--Portraits
    Douglas, Helen Gahagan, 1900-1980--Portraits
    Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955--Portraits
    Haas, Elise S., 1893-1990--Portraits
    Hayes, Roland, 1887-1977--Portraits
    Ito, Michio, 1893-1961--Portraits
    Jeffers, Robinson, 1887-1962--Portraits
    Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958--Portraits
    Miller, Henry, 1891-1980--Portraits
    Modotti, Tina, 1896-1942--Portraits
    Naess, Elsa--Portraits
    Price, Vincent, 1911-1993--Portraits
    Sproul, Robert Gordon, 1891-1975--Portraits
    Steffens, Lincoln, 1866-1936--Portraits
    Weston, Edward, 1886-1958--Portraits
    Wills, Helen, 1905---Portraits