Porter, Eliot

Porter, Eliot (Furness)

(1901–90) photographer; born in Winnetka, Ill. Although he had photographed natural subjects as a youth, he studied chemical engineering at Harvard and then took his M.D. degree at the Harvard Medical School (1929). He taught biochemistry at Harvard and Radcliffe (1929–39) and practiced photography as an amateur. After the first showing of his work (1938) at An American Place, Alfred Stieglitz's gallery in New York, he was persuaded to devote himself full time to photography. He was a pioneer in the use of color pictures and became especially noted for the almost microscopic closeups on the details of natural objects. By 1946 he settled in Sante Fe, N.M., although he was known for his landscape pictures of Maine. Among his dozen major books of photography, often with pertinent texts, are The Flow of Wildness (1968), The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972), and Birds of North America—A Personal Selection (1972). In later years he donated much of his work to the Sierra Club, which spread its conservation message with posters of his brilliant photos and in particular with his book, In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World (1962).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.