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Vandamm and the Antarctic, Part I


Vandamm scrapbook, Billy Rose Theatre DivisionVandamm scrapbook, Billy Rose Theatre DivisionOne of the factors that brought success to the Florence Vandamm Studio in London and, later the Vandamm Studio in NYC, was her ability to keep track of negatives. This blog contains a prime early demonstration of that ability. Spoiler Alert—it gets a little bit surreal.

Like many photo studios, she created pairs of photographs of military officers and their wives, before assignments overseas. In 1912, she made a set of photographs (profiles, seated, standing, together, and separately) for a Royal Navy officer, Commander E. R. G. R. Evans and his wife, before he left to join the ill-fated Scott expedition to the Antarctic. Evans became the highest ranking survivor and, as such, the spokesperson for the Navy on the expedition. To add to the tragedy, Mrs. Evans died when she and Mrs. Scott sailed to New Zealand to meet up with the explorers (The Bystander headlined its article "Men must work and Women must weep"). Interest in both bereaved families filled newspaper and magazine pages. Evans, or the Navy, used the Vandamm uniformed portraits as the officially sanctioned images and they went viral. Newspapers around England ran the photographs for the immediate news story and for every later article. The Navy sent Evans on a lecture tour throughout the English-speaking world, including New York City.

There is evidence that Commander Evans distributed autographed copies of portraits at his lectures, probably the Vandamm portrait. There is a description, here in the LPA collections, of attending his lecture and receiving an autographed portrait. Unfortunately, it is fictional, but…


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Such a varied collection

As someone who only knew and admired the Vandamm Studio's work in the performing arts, this adds quite an amazing dimension to its work. Thank you for this wonderful blog.

Commander E G R Evans

I found your posting (and the related one) extremely interesting - I've been doing some research on 'Teddy' Evans' time in America and I'm absolutely sure from what I know about him that he would have been more than happy to sign photos (he also made a guest appearance in an early soap-cum-documentary 'Our Mutual Girl'. Just a small point, but his wife actually died when he and she were on their way back from Antarctica in 1913. Is there anywhere I can see the picture at close quarters, so I can compare it to other photos I've seen of Evans in books over here? All fascinating though, thank you.

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