The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Algerian men

Algerian men

Photographed by Alary and Geiser of 1, rue Neuve Mahon, Algiers.

According to Ken Jacobson’s Odalisques and Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925 (Quaritch, 2007), Mme Julie Geiser, a widow who had lost her husband soon after their family emigrated from Switzerland to Algeria in 1850, started - or perhaps took over at the death of her husband - a photography business in the early to mid-1850’s, later (before 1862) going into partnership with Jean-Baptiste Antoine Alary, a framer turned photographer who had previously been associated with, and was possibly the student of, Algerian daguerreotypist Louis Delemotte. After Alary’s death, apparently in or about 1867, the firm appears to have been run by Mme Geiser’s three sons, two of whom died in the early 1870’s. The third son, Jean-Théophile Geiser, took the firm into the twentieth century, at least until 1913.

Ken Jacobson’s in-depth exploration of the studio’s history concludes that ‘The firm of Alary & Geiser, Geiser Frères and Jean Geiser was probably the most successful Algerian studio in commercial as well as aesthetic terms, and in their longevity. The revelation that there were possibly as many as five differenet Geiser family members who practised photography, not to mention their partners and assistants, indicates the perils to the photographic historian of merely reading a name from a stamped or signed print and attributing the photograph to a single person. There is clearly more to learn about the Geiser firm concerning the authorship of photographs during different periods.’


Code: 123903
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