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George Raymond Lawrence

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George Raymond Lawrence (born 1868 in Ottawa, Illinois, died 1938 in Chicago) was a famous photographer and inventor. Ca. 1890 he moved to Chicago were he married and founded a family. In 1891 he started a business as portraitist, sharing the studio with a photographer named Powell. When Powell abandoned his business in 1896, Lawrence took over his assets. He learned darkroom work from a friend. Then he started experimenting with flash light. After a lot of very dangerous experiments he found a magnesium powder mixture that gave more light and less smoke, thus making flash photography viable. Therefore he received the title "Father of Flash Photography" and the nickname "Flashlight Lawrence". When the magnesium powder flash method had become secure he had to convince authorities that it could be used without danger in the public. Finally he even got the permission to make a flashlight photograph of President McKinley.

In 1900 the Chicago & Alton Railroad Co. wanted to present a sensational photograph of its luxury train Alton Limited at the Expo of Paris. The complete train should be taken on one super large photo. Lawrence was engaged to do the job. The camera built for that purpose was a colossal view camera, weighing 1,400 pounds, and making a 8ft. × 4ft. 6in. exposure on a giant Cramer Isochromatic plate. Three prints of the photograph were made, and the image won a Grand Prix at the Expo.

Another specialty of Lawrence was panorama photography. In 1906 he shot a sensational panorama view of San Francisco, a 17 × 48 in. image taken with help of a kite from great height, 6 weeks after the great earthquake. He earned $ 15,000 from selling prints of the image.

After divorce in 1913 he married again in 1916, founding another family.


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