Arnold Genthe was born in Berlin in 1869, studied in Berlin and Jena, and received a doctorate in philology in 1894. His mastery of languages brought him to San Francisco as a tutor for some young German nationals studying there in 1895. He became interested in photography the following year and opened his own studio three years later after a successful series of photos of Chinatown and a developing interest in portrait photography at which he soon excelled. He then relocated to New York to pursue his career and found his subjects in the arts, literature and theatre. I have selected these photos as among the most impressive, which I believe rival anything being done today.
Arnold Genthe, San Francisco Chinatown Concubine, date unknown
Unlike his later, deliberately posed portrait subjects, this looks to me like what would be called a "grab shot" today.
Click on images to enlarge them.
Please use the hot links for comprehensive information about the subjects.
Arnold Genthe, San Francisco Earthquake 1906
Can you imagine what it must have been like for Genthe to see his city consumed in flames after a monstrous earthquake that is estimated to have registered 8.25 on the Richter Scale? Fortunately he had the presence of mind to photograph the scene in memorable images such as this.
Arnold Genthe, Author Jack London, circa 1906
The feeling for his subjects and the magical quality of his prints are as rare today as I believe they were then, a century ago.
My thanks to Wikipedia and Vanity Fair for helpful research.