George Edward Anderson
George Edward Anderson (October 28, 1860 – May 9, 1928) was an early American photographer known for his portraiture and documentary photographs of early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples.
George Edward Anderson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and apprenticed as a teenager under renowned photographer, Charles Roscoe Savage. At Savage’s Temple Bazaar, Anderson became friends with fellow apprentices John Hafen and John F. Bennett. Hafen later become an accomplished artist and Bennett was instrumental in preserving Anderson’s glass plate negatives.
At seventeen, Anderson established his photography studio in Salt Lake City with his brothers, Stanley and Adam. He established a studio in Manti, Utah in 1886 and moved his studio to Springville, Utah with his bride, Olive Lowry in 1888.
Anderson is best known for his traveling tent studio, set up in small towns throughout central, eastern, and southern Utah, that he used to document the lives of residents in the years 1884 to 1907.
Although known as a portrait photographer, Anderson's studio portraits are complemented by thousands of documentary portraits taken near homes, barns, and businesses. These photos document families, small town Utah history, railroad history, mining history (including the Scofield mine disaster), and the building of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples. Pure landscape photography was not Anderson's main interest, but his photographs of Church sites are important documents of LDS history. He photographed these sites while traveling across the country to begin his LDS Church mission in England from 1909-1911. The Deseret Sunday School Union of the Church published some of the views, as Anderson called them, in a booklet entitled The Birth of Mormonism in Picture.
Upon completion of his mission, Anderson returned to South Royalton, Vermont and set up a photography studio near the birthplace of LDS prophet Joseph Smith. He added a number of Church history site photographs, as well as portraits of Church members and local residents to his growing collection. Finally, in November 1913 he returned to his family and home in Springville, Utah.
After a seven-year absence his photographic business was unhealthy and his family life was strained. But business and money were not the motivating forces of Anderson’s that art and religion were. Continuing to experience financial and marital strains, Anderson tried to revive his traveling tent studio but with little success. He was, however, able to earn some money from the sale of The Birth of Mormonism booklet.
The later years of Ed Anderson’s life were spent in documenting families and life in Utah Valley and traveling to newly constructed temples. In 1923 he traveled to Cardston, Alberta, Canada with Church authorities for the dedication of that city’s temple. He spent two years in Canada, returning to Springville in 1925.
Though ill in the fall of 1927, and despite his wife’s urging not to go, Anderson went once again with Church officials to document the dedication of another temple, this time in Mesa, Arizona. It was to be his last trip. He died of heart failure on May 9, 1928 after being brought home to Springville.
Essentially unsung as a photographer during his lifetime, only in the last 30 years has Anderson been recognized for his photographic artistry. Primarily, the work of Rell G. Francis along with Nelson Wadsworth and Richard Holzapfel, has brought his exquisite work to the attention of this generation.
Charles Reynolds, picture editor of the Popular Photography magazine, commented at a Brigham Young University photo seminar on 11 December 1973 about his introduction to Anderson’s photographs. After attending an exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art, arranged by Rell Francis, he had this to say: “I go to shows several times a week in New York City . . . and I have rarely seen anything as impressive as those photographs. . . . It is awfully hard to astonish me. . . . The George Anderson pictures that I saw today weren’t sensationalized pictures in any way. They were very sweet, beautiful, lovely pictures. . . .”
- Rell G. Francis, The Utah Photographs of George Edward Anderson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979)
- Francis, p. 3.
- Francis, p. 24.
- Charles Reynolds, photo seminar, 11 December 1973, typescript from a recording made by the BYU Communications Department.