William Roe Howell, photographer

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stereo princeton2.jpgWilliam Roe Howell (1846-1890), [Nassau Street], ca. 1870. Albumen stereograph. Graphic Arts collection GC131.
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Among his many commissions, William Roe Howell (1846-1890) worked as senior class photographer for Princeton College 1869-1870 and 1872-1873. Melissa Johnson wrote, “The following notice in the October 1868 issue of the Nassau Literary Magazine announced the presence of William R. Howell (d. 1890) on campus as class photographer: ‘Photographer — The Seniors have chosen Mr. Howell, of New York City, to be their class photographer. He has erected a sky-light, and gone bravely to work to make 54 as good looking pictures as possible, while imitating nature sufficiently to secure a tolerable resemblance between picture and pictured.’”

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“…Howell appears to have been very popular at Princeton, serving the Classes of 1869, 1870, 1872, and 1873. … Howell, like many photographers who traveled for their trade, used a portable photographer’s shanty in which to take and develop photographs. Photographers had long made use of portable darkrooms and studios.”

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“…By the time Howell had finished erecting his studio on the Princeton campus behind East College (the present site of East Pyne), it was a building complete with skylight over the sitting-area. …The skylight of Howell’s shanty, on the side and roof of the building, allowed sufficient light for exposures made inside the otherwise windowless studio. Its interior is shown in a stereoscopic photograph taken by Howell ca. 1869-1870, revealing his work area. A young assistant sits by the camera, while a man we assume to be Howell sits at a desk working. The light coming in from the skylight is visible at the right side of the gallery.”

— Melissa A. Johnson, “Reflections on Photographing Princeton,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 60, no. 3 (spring 1999): 422-425. http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visualmaterials/pulc/pulcv60n_3.pdf

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William Roe Howell Photographs are inspiring, though they are colorless.