Friday, March 8, 2013

American Photographer Harry Whittier Frees

 I'm busy working on a tutorial, so
here is a post I have been working
on for some time.
I've taken lots of photos from my 
small collection of books by 
Harry Whittier Frees for this post. 
  Although some folks today 
may find these photos a bit disturbing,
choosing my favorites has given me a
great deal of trouble as I find each 
one captivating and endearing. 

Harry Whittier Frees
 Harry's photographs and the simple sweet
stories he wrote took children into an imaginary 
world where kittens baked pies, puppies wore
 dresses and bunnies flipped flapjacks. 
An introductory note in The Little Folks of
Animal Land, published in 1915, Harry writes,
"The series of animal pictures reproduced on the
following pages have all been photographed from
living animals.  The difficulties encountered in posing
kittens and puppies for pictures of this kind have
been overcome only by the exercise of great
patience and invariable kindness.  My little models
receive no especial training, and after their daily
performance before the camera they enjoy nothing 
better than a frolic about the studio.  I sincerely
hope that others will derive as much pleasure from
the antics of these "Little Folks of Animal Land,"
as I experienced in picturing and telling
about them." 
 Mrs. Barker was busy in the kitchen.
 Mrs. Bufkins finds plenty of eggs.
 Mrs. Bufkins takes Barker's place.

 Barker takes a stitch in time.
(Of course this is my absolute favorite!)
Mrs. Bufkins had a busy day.

 Rosie Bufkins gave Jennie an airing.
Lily Bufkins cuts a wisdom tooth.
Cats, Dogs & Other Rabbits, his only biography
 and collection of his photos, was printed in France.
Harry was quite popular in Europe and had
a large following.
Special costumes made by Harry's mother
allowed the animals to stand.  They were
secured with pins so the animals could be
dressed and undressed quickly.
Only about 30 plates out of 100 were
usable.  Some of his earliest photos required
a second and 1/2 of exposure time.
Harry relied on intuition to take his photos
at just the right moment.
His photos graced postcards, calenders, and
were even used in advertisements.
All highly collectible today.

 Harry took photos for only 3 months out of
the year and spent the rest of the time
writing and making props.
 Original books were published in the 
early 1900's then colorized and reprinted
in the 1950's.  I vividly remember
those brightly colored photos from my
childhood, but I prefer the original black
and white photos.
 Fluff, Puff, Muff and Algernon. 
 Buzz, Fuzz, Suzz and Agamemnon.

 Wags, Tags, Rags and Obadiah.
  In our modern world full of computer digital images,
  I am utterly fascinated by Harry's work.  I can't help
but think he had a special love of animals to have
made this type of photograph his life's work.  I can 
still recall the many times my daughter and 
nieces wrapped Ace, the rag doll cat, in a 
blanket and adorned him with a dolly's bonnet 
for a ride in the stroller.  They were kind and
 gentle with him and he certainly seemed to
 relish the special attention.  No wonder Harry's
  books were so popular with little children.
   I wanted to purchase some reproduction books
for my great niece's Easter basket.  Antique
 and vintage books are rare, expensive and fragile.  
I searched long and hard for reprints of his
 original works.  Little black and white 6 by 5 books 
are available at The Shackman Store, as well
 as lots of other interesting things.

Learn more about Harry Frees  


  1. Amazing vision and creation.... I studied each photo, great inspiration.
    Thank you for sharing these with us.

  2. Those are amazing...I'm trying to figure out how he could have gotten several animals to be still for a second and a half!

  3. I think these are about the most precious things I've ever seen. I am with you Jan, how in the world could he have gotten these animals to stand still like this, even for a second. He was very gifted and not only are the animals so sweet and cute, those dresses and little props are just to to cute.He was an amazing person to have done this. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. These pictures are amazing. I have seen most of these before but can't quite remember where... Even with "great patience and invariable kindness" I am afraid I could never get Sylvester to stand on his hind legs. Thanks for posting this... love seeing these old pictures!

  5. Adorable collection of photos. I can see why you're having a hard time selecting your favorite. My favorite would have to be the mama cat pulling the covers over the kitten the cradle. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I'm a collector of Frees' postcards and books, and I'm always happy to stumble across others who share an interest in his work. Nowadays it seems people find them sad or creepy, but it's difficult not to look through modern eyes. I think there is something just so endearing and awkward about his photos, and that has kept me collecting his work for years :)

  7. I had two of the 1950's colorized books, which I read to pieces. My favorite was about Purrcilla Mewriel who was trying to earn 10 cents for a new jump rope. Love your website!


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