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Alice Austen House

Alice Austen was introduced to photography when she was 10 years old by her Uncle Oswald, who brought home an early-model dry plate camera from one of his many trips abroad. Alice showed immediate and natural ability. Through experimentation she taught herself how to operate the complex camera mechanism, judge exposure, develop the heavy glass plates, and make prints. By the time she was 18 in 1884, she was not only technically skilled but artistically accomplished as well.
Alice was active, social, and well traveled. Everywhere she went, she took her camera equipment, which sometimes weighed as much as fifty pounds and often filled a steamer trunk. As a result of her desire to photograph so much of her life and the world around her, her range of subjects was extensive. In her lifetime, she created images on approximately 8,000 glass plates, of which more than 3,000 survive.
Alice remained an amateur photographer at heart, though she sold some of her work. She took pictures for the love of it-and so she had more freedom to express herself than professional Victorian women photographers. Her straightforward style anticipated documentary photography. At the same time, she used composition, pose, costuming, and satire to convey her point of view.

The Alice Austen House was built in 1690. Clear Comfort's most famous resident, Alice Austen (1866-1952) would become one of America's earliest and most accomplished women photographers. ) After she died the house fell into disrepair until a group of concerned citizens saved it from demolition in the 1960's.
Restoration was begun in January 1984 and completed in April 1985. Because of its historic significance, the Alice Austen House was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, was designated a New York City Landmark in 1971, and a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
Today, the Alice Austen House serves as a museum of Alice Austen's life and times. Located at the entrance to New York Harbor, the Alice Austen House is a reminder of the picturesque suburban "cottages" that dotted the shore and hills of 19th century Staten Island. The house and grounds recall the home as Alice knew it and a way of life that has passed into history.

I am proud to work for the Museum and pleased that I teach photography to the next generation of shutterbugs!