Henry B Goodwin

Par Rittsel 

The most prominent photographer in the pictorialist era was Henry B Goodwin, who came to Sweden and the university of Uppsala from Germany 1904 as a linguist. At that time he had already studied photography under the famous portrait photographer Nicola Perscheid in Leipzig. 

He gradually anglicized his German name Heinrich Karl Hugo Bürgel to the more Brittish-sounding signature, probably in anticipation of a job in Oxford. But his academic career never took off, and he devoted more and more time to photography. He opened an elegant portrait studio in his downtown Stockholm flat in 1913 and made a public break-through in 1915 with a gallery exhibition, the first one-man show of "camera art" in Sweden.

At the same time he devoted a lot of energy to writing, both in popular magazines and photographers' publications. Thus he established himself as an expert on artistic photography to the public while he introduced a number of the leading European pictorialists to his Swedish colleagues. He also introduced and propagated Nordic photography abroad.

For 15 intensly creative years, he dominated Swedish photography and achieved a status like that of the popular painters of the era. Society journals as Veckojournalen and Saisonen would typically feature two full page portraits – one by the painter Anders Zorn and one by Goodwin. Zorn was the towering figure in Swedish art and internationally well established. Goodwin charged the equivalent of €560 for a portrait!

Perscheid had introduced him to the new methods as bromoil and carbon-printing, and Goodwin always held Perscheid as an ideal. But his strongest influence came from the American–British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn. 

Not only did Coburn's portraits and many London views serve as direct models for Goodwin's work, he even followed Coburn in deeds. Coburn had his one-man show in London 1903, titled "Camera Pictures". Goodwin's 1915 show was named "Kamerabilder", a direct translation that Goodwin continued to use – and insisted that others used – as a term for his pictures insted of "fotografi".

Coburn's first book with portraits of celebrities, with tipped in, hand-pulled photogravures, had the title "Men of Mark". Goodwin used the same technique in his two books with portraits: "Konstnärsporträtt" (artist portraits) and the tribute to the actor Anders de Wahl. Coburn's 1909 book "London" was echoed in Goodwin's Stockholm volume from 1920. (see sidebar on next page)

Having said that, Goodwin holds his place in the photo-history as a fine pictorialist who carried the tradition into the 1920s.


Henry B Goodwin 1878-1931 


Goodwin: Stockholm railroad bridge 

Coburn: St Paul's Cathedral 1905: 

Goodwin's books on the next page