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Eliot Porter

Spotted Towhee

Eliot Porter. Spotted Towhee, 1941/64. Restricted gift of Mrs. Mary Morris Diamond © 1990, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Bequest of the artist.

Also known as
Eliot Furness Porter
Date of birth
Date of death

An avid nature photographer, Eliot Porter helped to pioneer technologies of color printing and fought to have color photography recognized as art. He began a career in biophysics research after graduating from medical school, but quit to pursue photography full time after being given a solo show at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, in 1938. In the pamphlet accompanying the exhibition, Stieglitz wrote: “For four years I have been watching the work of Eliot Porter. In the very beginning I felt he had a vision of his own. I sensed a potentiality. These photographs now shown I believe should have an audience.”

Though his first exhibition featured black-and-white prints, Porter became known for vibrant color prints (made using a three-color process known as dye imbibition) of nature scenes and cultural landmarks. Porter published these images in books and portfolios made in partnership with the Sierra Club. He traveled the world in search of subjects, photographing in Africa, Antarctica, Asia, and South America.

Porter was among the last American photographers to be mentored by Stieglitz; they were introduced by his younger brother, painter Fairfield Porter, in the early 1930s. In 1979 the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, devoted an exhibition, Intimate Landscapes, to Porter’s work—the museum’s first solo show devoted to color photography.

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