:: Avery Edwin Field Panoramic Photographs

 

Introduction

Avery Field was Riverside's premier commercial photographer from the 1910s until his retirement in 1952. He was also the long-time official photographer of the Mission Inn and had his studio in the famous Rotunda Wing after its completion in 1931. Although Field offered a wide range of photographic services and products, the preponderance of his work during his career in Riverside was portraiture.

This collection consists of 218 of Field's panoramic photographs, taken using Kodak's rotating "Cirkut" camera. Field undoubtedly invested in Kodak's rotating Cirkut camera to provide clear and detailed group portaits to the Mission Inn's many conventioneers. However, his panoramic photographs also began to appear in Riverside promotional publications as early as 1914 and continued to be published for several decades. Field's last major work with the Cirkut camera was during World War II, when he was kept busy photographing military units at Camp Haan. In the late 1940s, Kodak began marketing Cirkut camera film only in 200-roll units. Few photographers did enough panoramic work to justify purchasing the expensive film in this quantity and the Cirkut camera went out of general use.

Few of the panoramic photographs document major historic events. Instead, these photographs were selected to show the rich diversity of Riverside County, in terms of its geography, its economic development, and, of course, its peoples. The record of daily occupations, rituals, organizations, and leisure activities from Riverside County's past is the unique legacy of Avery Field's panoramic work.

See the complete list of Avery Field's photographs in this collection.

Biography

Avery Edwin Field was the premier commercial photographer in Riverside for most of the first half of the twentieth century. The name "Avery Field" was synonymous with photographic artistry and high technical quality for three generations of Riverside residents. As the official photographer of the Mission Inn and a successful entrant in many prestigious salon exhibits, Field also enjoyed a national and international reputation for photographic excellence.

Field was born in Sparta, Michigan, in 1883 and spent his childhood there. By 1900 he was an enthusiastic amateur photographer. After graduating from the Illinois College of Photography in 1906 and serving a brief apprenticeship, Field opened his first studio in Lowell, Michigan. He soon, however, became restless with small town business, sold his studio, and took a job in Chicago. He also enrolled in Hillsdale College, where he took courses in drawing, composition, and art history.

Avery Field's first chance contact with Riverside came on Easter Sunday in 1909. He was taking a stroll in Main Chicago when he bumped into his California cousin, Gaylor Rouse, who had come back from Illinois for a family visit. Rouse lived in Riverside, where he owned the little city's department store. Accompanying Rouse was a man named Frank Miller, builder and "Master" of Riverside's famed Mission Inn. Miller had an infallible ability to spot exploitable talent. In the course of their casual conversation, he urged Field to consider resettling in Riverside, where his hostelry was in need of a talented photographer.

One of Field's classmates at Hillsdale College was a painter named Charlotte Shephard, who became his wife in October 1909. The newlyweds embarked on an eight-month honeymoon trip, which included a stop in Riverside to visit the groom's cousin. Gaylor Rouse arranged for the couple to meet with Frank Miller at the Mission Inn. Just as he had done some months before, Miller urged Field to settle in Riverside and promised to provide studio space in a new addition he was soon to build in his Inn. But the young couple was not ready for such a radical break with the past.

The Fields returned to their studies at Hillsdale and then opened a studio in Grand Rapids , Michigan. However, Miller's blandishments, and a persistent lung ailment made worse by Michigan's cold winters, soon won Avery Field over to the benefits of Riverside. The Fields packed up their studio and moved to the navel orange capital during the latter half of 1910.

Unfortunately, by the time the Fields arrived, Miller was in no position to help them get established. The Master of the Inn was heavily in debt. The Inn's Spanish Cloister Wing, then under construction, was proving to be a financial millstone. A severe storm had struck while the Music Room was still unroofed, causing major structural damage and greatly delaying the whole project.

So the Fields began life in Riverside very modestly. They were used to camping. During their lengthy honeymoon, they had tented for awhile in northern Arizona, where they learned to weave Indian blankets. They now set themselves up in a tent house at the base of Box Springs Mountains, near the springs. Charlotte Field painted while her husband took his camera equipment into Riverside on a bicycle-built-for-two to do odd photographic jobs.

After several months, Miller was finally able to help the Fields obtain studio space on the third floor of the Loring Building, across Main Street from the Mission Inn. They called their studio the Photocraft Shop. Even though he specialized in portraits, Avery Field soon ran advertisements which offered a wide range of products and services. By 1917 he was providing not only panorama "Cirkut Camera" prints, but also lantern slides, "Autochrome" color transparencies, and photomural enlargements. In addition, he was doing extensive micrographic photography for Riverside's Citrus Experiment Station. Charlotte Field, in the meanwhile, advertised as an artist doing "portraits in oil and watercolours."

In 1920 the Fields sold their portrait business and moved their studio to a home in the 400 block of Lime Street. While at that location they concentrated on etchings, pictorial views in black and white, and scientific and commercial camera work. Finally, with the completion of the Rotunda Wing in 1931, Frank Miller was able to redeem his 21-year-old promise to provide Avery Field with a studio in the Mission Inn. The space provided seemed well worth the wait. The large, elegant quarters on the third floor of the Rotunda itself looked out over the Oriental Court. This remained Field's studio until his retirement.

Avery Field was a full participant in the life of his adopted city. For many years he was involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club and taught Sunday school at the First Congregational Church. But most of his "outside" activities involved some aspect of photography. In the 1930s and 1940s he taught a class entitled "Photography and the Art of Seeing" at Polytechnic High School and at Riverside City College. He was active in a small local photography club called the Riverside Pictorialists and served several terms on the board of directors of the Photographers Association of America.

Field retired from business in 1952. His son, Gaylor, who had been assisting him since 1939, took over the studio and operated it until 1978. By retirement, Field had become enamored with the desert and its photographic opportunities. He began spending winters in the new community of Desert Hot Springs and also involved himself in civic activities there. He died in Riverside on 31 October 1955, a year after the death of his wife and artistic colleague, Charlotte Field.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 218 panoramic photographs of various topics and places in Riverside County. It is organized in two series. The photographs are arranged in two numerical series, one derived from UCR's numbering system, and the second from Robert Whelan's arrangement. Twenty-one of the UCR series have framed duplicates. All twenty of the Whelan series are framed.

 

Local History