Canale: Paul Thompson’s pioneering baseball portraits

From Larry Canale at The National Pastime Museum on November 29, 2017:

To those who have been following this series on baseball’s best photographers, my apologies for the rain delay. That’s what you can call the chunk of time that passed between Part 6 (“George Grantham Bain: Master of Mystique”) and this new installment. And who better to get “Legends of the Camera” back in focus than pioneering Paul Thompson?

Thompson (1878–1940) was a versatile type whose tight studies of the weathered, dusty, grime-filled faces of early baseball players help tell the story of our National Pastime’s history. His journey had clear parallels to the career of George Bain (1865–1944). Broadly speaking, both were highly regarded photographers who helped frame baseball’s early twentieth century. Both also aimed their cameras beyond athletes, covering news and politics for the media. And both showed an entrepreneurial spirit by starting up agencies to represent the work of other photographers.

Biographical details about Thompson are sketchy. Some have questioned, for example, the accuracy of the birth/death dates shown above, although they’re commonly cited in such sources as auction catalogs. While we know Thompson graduated from Yale University, his earliest years as a photographer are somewhat mysterious. His big break, however, is well known.

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Originally published: November 29, 2017. Last Updated: November 29, 2017.