• Title
    A. L. Coburn Photographic Collection
  • Reference
    MS 5683
  • Production date
  • Creator
  • Creator History
    Alvin Langdon Coburn was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1882. He started taking photographs at the age of eight and by the time he was 15 had exhibited his work in Boston. From 1899 to 1912 he worked and travelled between America and Britain but after his marriage in 1912 he settled in Britain permanently. His work concentrated on landscapes and portraits, particularly of creative people. He produced both prints for exhibitions and finely produced books of photogravures. Coburn invented the Vortoscope late in 1916 by binding together three of Ezra Pound’s shaving mirrors and rigging them below a kind of glass light table. The mirrors acted as a prism splitting the image formed by the lens into segments which Coburn then used to produce his vortographs. The objects he photographed were usually bits of wood and crystals and even Ezra Pound himself. In 1917 Coburn held a one man show at the Camera Club in London where he showed thirteen paintings and eighteen vortographs. Coburn continued his experimental work and the Royal Photographic Society gave him oneman shows in 1924 and 1927. However in 1930 Coburn moved with his wife to live in Wales. Already a mason, here he became a lay reader in the Church of Wales and began to study and compare religions, pursuing mysticism ardently with the same passion he had taken his photographs. Gradually Coburn sank into obscurity as a photographer although towards the end of his life interest in his work began to revive. He had another show at the Royal Photographic Society in 1957. Then in 1961 D.J.Gordon, Professor of English at Reading University, while assembling portraits of W. B. Yeats for an exhibition, came across the work of Coburn, found out that he was still alive and contacted him, then brought him up to Reading for the opening of the exhibition, which continued the process of revival. Coburn died at his home in Colwyn Bay in 1966. Sources: Weaver, Mike, 'Coburn, Alvin Langdon (1882-1966)' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [Accessed 18/10/2005] National Museum of Photography, Film and Television
  • Scope and Content
    Possible original images by Alvin Langdon Coburn from his Men of Mark series including: Mark Twain; Ezra Pound (copy); W B Yeats; George Moore; G K Chesterton; George Bernard Shaw; Thomas Hardy (2 images copies); H G Wells; Robert Bridges; Arthur Symons; William Orpen; Max Beerbolm; Joseph Conrad (copy); Henry James (copy); Gertrude Stein (copy).
  • Extent
    1 folder (16 images)
  • Level of description
  • Content person
  • Archival history
    This folder of images was transfered from the English Department alongwith the W. B. Yeats: Images of a Poet Exhibition Collection. This folder of photographs was probably gathered by Donald J. Gordon during his research for this exhibition.
  • Related objects
    MS 5299, MS 5299/3
  • Publication Note
    Men of mark by Alvin Langdon Coburn, London: Duckworth & Co., New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1913 [9000866424]