Riverside Metropolitan Museum

Riverside Metropolitan Museum

Chasing the Sun: Riverside Photographers 1880-1930



Exhibit Open July 2, 2015 - July 20, 2016  (This Exhibit is now CLOSED)

“Chasing the Sun: Riverside Photographers 1880-1930,” approaches early photographs of the city of Riverside with a focus on the other side of the camera. The exhibit explores Riverside’s history through investigation of the works of C.T. Collier, the McMillens, and E.N. Fairchild, as well as several lesser-known photographers. Their experiences illustrate the broader history of commercial photography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time of rapid technological changes and the birth of photography. The Riverside Metropolitan Museum and the California Museum of Photography are proud to present these rare historic cityscapes, portraits, and cameras from their collections to show the entrepreneurial spirit of Riverside pioneers and the early history of the city.

A photographer named H.W. Shaw established the first photography studio in Riverside in 1880, ten years after the founding of  the city. He gave up the studio after only one year by selling it to an established photographer who had just moved to Riverside from Massachusetts. Only a few small portraits bearing Shaw’s imprint survive today, but his short-lived business kicked off an industry that has remained vibrant in Riverside ever since.
Shaw and the photographers that followed him in the next few decades are little-known names today. In some cases, only a handful of photographs by these artists survive; in other cases, only their names in old newspaper advertisements and city directories remain, but not any photographs. Part of this might be credited to how short-lived many studios were. Being a photographer in a burgeoning town was difficult business. During hard times, such as the panic of 1893 and the recession that followed, people were far less likely to spend money on luxuries like having their portrait made or getting a professional picture of their home or farms.
Other photographers left a much stronger visual legacy. C.T. Collier and S.P. Tresslar each worked in Riverside for nine years: Collier between 1884 and 1893, and Tresslar, Collier’s successor, between 1893 and 1902. Their output was incredibly prolific, and both made a wide variety of photographs documenting a breadth of subjects around the city, including downtown businesses, Fairmount Park, Magnolia Avenue, and orchards.


In the early twentieth century, a growing number of people owned their own cameras and found a hobby in photography. Some of the studios, including Tresslar’s, operated public darkrooms, so that members of the community could develop their own film and make their own prints. Despite many people taking up photography, commercial photographers like E.N. Fairchild and Avery Field thrived. The legacy of their images survives intact, too. Unlike the earlier photographers, both Fairchild and Field have archives of their work preserved in Riverside. The museum’s photographs are joined by cameras loaned from the California Museum of Photography, which help visualize the sort of equipment Riverside’s photographers may have been using.

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