Johan Hagemeyer was a creative photographer who sometimes retouched or manipulated his photos. He was a contemporary and colleague of both Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, who both encouraged him to develop his skills in the photography field. He distanced himself from his more famous contemporaries when they disapproved of doctoring photographs. He felt that photography as an art form did not end with just the taking of a photograph. If it could be artistically improved he did so, much to the chagrin of his contemporaries.
Hagemeyer also did not become as well-known as his contemporaries because he apparently did not market his photos aggressively. Upon his death in 1962, his complete oeuvre was found in his home. It is presently in the control of the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. It contains 6,785 photographic items
Hagemeyer was born in a lower middle class family in Amsterdam on June 1, 1884. He was one of four siblings and the parents were clearly encouraging their children to gain a good education so that they would be able to live a more affluent lifestyle than they did. Johan left school in his mid-teens to join an insurance brokerage firm. He was intellectually curious and became interested in literature, the arts and social sciences. He explored mysticism, anarchism, vegetarianism, politics and anything of interest to his curious mind.
Along the way he developed an interest in horticulture, and was able to leave his job and go back to school to study it. Along the way two of his brothers also developed an interest in horticulture. After some time they decided to explore the practice of horticulture by growing fruit trees. America seemed the place to try it out, and that is how the three Hagemeyer siblings ended up in the United States, in California to be exact. The exact date of their arrival is not known but it must have been between 1905 and 1915.
While in Holland, Hagemeyer already had become interested in photography, and it appears that after their arrival in the USA his two brothers became fruit growers but he became a photographer. He met photographer Alfred Stieglitz as early as 1916. Stieglitz convinced him to devote his life to photography.
Hagemeyer moved between San Francisco and Carmel, and it was at Carmel that he met Edward Weston and the two developed a strong friendship which lasted until the two developed different views on how photography should be practiced. Although they apparently stayed in contact, their friendship cooled thereafter.
Although his colleagues, Stieglitz and Weston, became quite famous with their photography, Hagemeyer apparently was unable to find a market for his photographs. Or he may not have been as much of a promoter of his photographs. At his death the above-mentioned collection of photographs were found at this home. They were fortunately saved for posterity ;
Little is known about Hagemeyer’s personal life. Was he married? Did he leave descendants? What happened to his two brothers? None of it has been found. It appears he was a bit of a loner, and may have died without any close friends or relatives at his side. It appears to be a rather tragic story. But perhaps it was not. He will be remembered for what he left behind. Please go to the two web sites and view some or all of his photographs. They are magic and artistic.
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