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J(ohn) D. Willis
(US, d. 1928)
"Cyprepedium Orchid"
Autochrome circa 1913 3.25 x 4.25 inches

The size of this Autochrome indicates it was a lantern slide -- an image intended for projection onto a screen. Many leading photographers (including Alfred Stieglitz and Frederick H. Evans) produced and exhibited lantern slides. Millions of commercially-produced slides were also made in this format, many of them hand-colored. Even after the advent of the natural color Autochrome process, hand-colored slides continued to be popular. This was likely due to the greater expense of producing Autochromes, for not even the most skillful artist could capture the subtle gradations of color seen in this image.

For J. D. Willis, lantern slides were so important that they were mentioned in the New York Times after his death. In a 42-word article headlined "J. D. Willis Willed Lantern Slides," the paper noted that Willis, a wool importer in Flushing, New York (part of New York City), "made a hobby of taking photographs, coloring some of them and turning them into lantern slides." According to the newspaper, Willis's works were willed to the New York Camera Club, the Bronx Zoological Garden, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Take a closer look at the reflection near the neck of the vase-- to the left you see what may be a balcony railing or iron fence in silhouette, and the camera's tripod appears toward the center, perhaps with an arm reaching in from the upper right.

 

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