Frederick H. Evans
Biography | Bibliography
Frederick H. Evans (26 June 1853, London – 24 June 1943, London) was a British photographer, primarily of architectural subjects. He is best known for his images of English and French cathedrals. Evans began his career as a bookseller, but retired from that to become a full-time photographer in 1898, when he adopted the platinotype technique for his photography. Platinotype images, with extensive and subtle tonal range, non glossy-images, and better resistance to deterioration than other methods available at the time, suited Evans’ subject matter. Almost as soon as he began, however, the cost of platinum – and consequently, the cost of platinum paper for his images – began to rise. Because of this cost, and because he was reluctant to adopt alternate methodologies, by 1915 Evans retired from photography altogether.
Evans’ ideal of straightforward, “perfect” photographic rendering – unretouched or modified in any way – as an ideal was well-suited to the architectural foci of his work: the ancient, historic, ornate and often quite large cathedrals, cloisters and other buildings of the English and French countryside. This perfectionism, along with his tendency to exhibit and write about his work frequently, earned for him international respect and much imitation. He ultimately became regarded as perhaps the finest architectural photographer of his, or any, era – though some professionals privately felt that the Evans’ philosophy favoring extremely literal images was restrictive of the creative expression rapidly becoming available within the growing technology of the photographic field.
Evans was also an able photographer of landscapes and portraits, and among the many notable friends and acquaintances he photographed was George Bernard Shaw, with whom he also often corresponded. Evans was a member of the Linked Ring photographic society.
Frederick H. Evans is best known for his breathtaking platinum prints of architectural interiors. Before devoting his time solely to the art of photography, Evans owned a small bookshop in London where many artists and writers, including George Bernard Shaw and Aubrey Beardsley, came together. Frederick H. Evans did take some portraits of these friends, but his photographic mastery can be found in his images of English and French cathedrals. Frederick Evans worked tirelessly to use the effects of light and shade to create images with harmonized values and he achieved these masterful works of art without manipulating the negative or the print.
He wrote several articles for publications including Amateur Photographer and Photogram and exhibited his work widely. He contributed many prints to Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work and exhibited at Stieglitz’s gallery “291”. Frederick Evans was a member of The Linked Ring and was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. In the 1920s platinum paper became scarce and Frederick H. Evans found he could not achieve the same rich tonal quality using silver paper so he stopped making photographs. Today Frederick Evans is considered one of the masters of pictorial photography.
Beaumont Newhall, Frederick Evans Photography, Rochester, N.Y., George Eastman House ca. 1964.
Beaumont Newhall, Frederick H. Evans: photographer of the majesty, light, and space of the medieval cathedrals of England and France, Millerton, N.Y., Aperture, 1973