A. Aubrey Bodine Collection - Peale/BCLM Photograph Collection

Maryland Historical Society
Special Collections Department
201 West Monument Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201
410-685-3750 x359; specialcollections@mdhs.org

A. Aubrey Bodine making prints, October 24, 1949, BCLM Collection, B655-23B, MdHS, REFERENCE PHOTOGRAPH
A.Aubrey Bodine making enlargements, not dated, B655-23B, MdHS.

A. AUBREY BODINE COLLECTION

 1925 - 1970

BALTIMORE CITY LIFE MUSEUM COLLECTION

 Finding Aid

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Processing note: 

Inventory begun while collection was at BCLM; Inventory completed by Debbie Harner and Micah Connor, March – July, 2015; Finding aid created by Damon Talbot, July 2015.

Collection Origin

Collection was acquired in 1973 by the Peale Museum: Donor: Nancy Bodine (Mrs. A. Aubrey Bodine). In 1997 the Peale/Baltimore City Life Museums closed due to lack of funding. Their collections were transferred to the Maryland Historical Society in 1998. 

Biographical Note

In photographic circles around the world, A. Aubrey Bodine (1906 – 1970) was regarded as one of the finest pictorialists of the twentieth century. His pictures were exhibited in hundreds of prestigious shows, in scores of museums, and he won awards against top competition. His photographs were seen in the Sunday Sun, numerous books and magazines, on calendars, as murals, and as framed prints decorating homes.

Aubrey Bodine's photographic career began in 1923 when as an office boy with the Baltimore Sun he submitted photographs of the Thomas Viaduct at Relay to the editor of the Sunday paper, and they were published. From first to last Aubrey Bodine was a newspaperman covering all sorts of stories with his camera  -  news events, famous people, unusual places and curious activities. This gave him opportunities to travel throughout the region and learn about it in every tide, wind, weather and season. Out of this experience came remarkable documentary pictures of farming, oystering, hunting, soap boiling, blacksmithing, clock making, bricklaying and dozens of other occupations, and student nurses, Amish children, pilots of ships and planes, country folk and city folk, wood sheds and cathedrals, wagons and railroad engines, and, in short, almost everything of interest. Moreover, the documentary pictures are of the very finest quality, often artistic in design and lighting effects far beyond the usual standard of newspaper work.

But Bodine's talent ran deeper than this, and so did his ambition. He submitted photographs to national and international salon competitions and consistently won top honors. Bodine believed that photography could be a creative discipline, and he studied the principles of art at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The camera and the dark room equipment were tools to him like the painter's brush or the sculptor's chisel.

Bodine was a romantic pictorialist and this shows in his choice of subjects  -  the old times and the old things, the beauties of nature, man as an individual, and similar ideas. The pictures are usually quiet in mood partly because of the subdued tones and partly because of a low tension design made of open curves and natural perspective.

Not the least of Bodine's artistic ability was his craftsmanship. He was always experimenting with his tools, but seldom made a mistake. Some of his best pictures were literally composed in the viewfinder of the camera. In other cases he worked on the negative with dyes and intensifiers, pencil marking, and even scraping to produce the effect he had in mind. He added clouds photographically, and made other even more elaborate manipulations. Bodine's rationale for all these technical alterations of the natural scene was simply that, like the painter, he worked from the model and selected those features which suited his sense of mood, proportion and design. The picture was the thing, not the manner of arriving at it. He did not take a picture, he made a picture.

Essay taken from www.aaubreybodine.com/toc/biography.asp

Scope and Content

The collection of A. Aubrey Bodine photographs donated to the Peale Museum by Nancy Bodine in 1973 consists of more than 12,000 images. Of these, more than 4,500 are processed and available to the public. The images document virtually all aspects of life in Baltimore, Maryland and the Chesapeake region.

The photographs consist primarily of 5x7, 4x5 and 120 mm film negatives. There are also 4x5 glass negatives and a few color transparencies. The collection is broken down into two series.

Click on the links below to see a detailed container list for each series.

Series I: B0 – B2067

This series consists primarily of identified photographs of people and places in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

These images can also be located through the MdHS Library Catalog.

Series II: B2068 - 3844

This series consists primarily of photographs with minimal descriptions, i.e, men on a train, farm scene, hunters, cloud scene, aerial view, etc. Identified images include: Ringling Brothers Circus; Hunt Circus, Hagerstown; Western Maryland Railroad; Naval Academy, Annapolis, and more.

Download a PDF version of the finding aid and full container list

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