Louis Saul Langfier (Photographer)

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer - Crop1

Some photographs take me on a journey and this is one of them. It is a softly focussed image of a dancer holding a painted tambourine. It immediately makes me think of the 1920s (although it could be earlier) and is mounted on thin, textured card with the photographer’s name embossed on the lower right.

When my daughter, who studies Dance, saw this photograph she drew my attention to the early 20th century American dancer Isadora Duncan, who developed a free and natural dance style inspired by the Greek arts and folk dance. The style came to be known as modern dance, and included floorwork unlike classical ballet. The dancer in the photograph obviously fits this genre, with loose clothing and a pose reminiscent of Duncan, though unfortunately there is nothing on the photograph to identify who she is.

Happily the photographer can be identified a little more easily. Or so it seems! Although faint in places, the embossed name contains the words Louis and Edinburgh and comparison to other online images confirms it to be Louis Saul Langfier (1871 – 1948):

Louis Saul Langfier - Dancer

photo - dancer photographer

Louis Saul Langfier was one of a family of Langfiers, including brother Adolph, all working in the photographic trade with their businesses often overlapping. One particular family member Louis Langfier gained success in London, being located in prestigious Old Bond Street and boasting patronage by the Royal Family (The Sketch – Wednesday 26 June 1901):

Image © Illustrated London News Group

During an interview published in The Sketch, Louis states that he joined his ‘nephew’ L. S. Langfier at ‘the firm in Glasgow’ in around 1896. Indeed, Louis Saul Langfier was named alongside ‘uncle’ Louis Langfier in The Edinburgh Gazette, 14 Oct 1898, as co-owner of Langfier and Langfier & Co., 158 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow. According to the interview above, ‘uncle’ Louis then left Scotland in 1899 to set up a London firm, leaving Louis Saul to look after the Glasgow studio.

All was not completely rosy however, since in 1905 the estates of Louis Saul, including the Glasgow address, were sequestrated/closed (Aberdeen Press and Journal – Wednesday 26 July 1905):

Aberdeen Press and Journal - Wednesday 26 July 1905Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Perhaps Louis Saul Langfier had hit hard times? Or perhaps he simply wished to spend his energies looking after his own company ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’, newly located in Edinburgh (The Scotsman – Friday 01 April 1904)?

1904 The Scotsman - Friday 01 April 1904Image © Johnston Press plc

By 1908 the Edinburgh company was advertising ‘the most beautiful works in colour’ and appealing for attention from Art Connoisseurs (The Scotsman – Saturday 24 August 1907):

1907 The Scotsman - Saturday 24 August 1907Image © Johnston Press plc

Thus at first glance Louis Saul appears to have made a success of his second Scottish endeavour, with the firm known as ‘Louis Saul Langfier Ltd’ existing in Edinburgh until it’s liquidation in 1929.

So it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a rather unpleasant newspaper article in the Sunday Post, dated 1919, that I realised the situation was more complicated than I first supposed (Sunday Post – Sunday 02 March 1919):

Sunday Post - Sunday 02 March 1919 titleImage © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Pushing the racist overtones to one side, the article asserts that German photographer Carl Henrich T Shmidt is ‘manager and principal shareholder in the high class photographic business of Louis Saul Langfier Limited at 60 Princes Street (Edinburgh)’. Furthermore, it states that Mr Schmidt had been the principal shareholder of the firm since 1910 or thereabouts.

Which begs the question… where was Louis Saul Langfier after Mr Schmidt took over the Edinburgh studio?

I have a theory, as suggested by entries in the British Telephone Directory archives. In 1910 and 1911, ‘S. Langfier’ is listed as Artist & Photographer in James St., Harrogate (Yorkshire). And from 1913 to 1921, a photographer by the same name is listed at three different London addresses. The name possibly refers to Samuel Langfier, father of Louis Saul and Adolph, who died in 1919 aged 78. But I think it likely that the two sons, particularly Louis Saul, were in fact running these businesses.

Supporting this, Adolph’s name is quoted in relation to the bankruptcy of the Harrogate firm (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Wednesday 20 July 1910):

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptaYorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Wednesday 20 July 1910 bankruptbImage © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

And Louis Saul is living at one of the London addresses, 115 Queen’s Road, Westminster, according to the 1919 Electoral Register for London.

Finally, another of the London addresses, 123 Victoria Street, Westminster, is associated with Louis Saul’s wife, Pearl Lyndon, who herself is a fascinating character with a complicated story (and the subject of my next blog post).

Which brings me back to the photograph of the dancer at the top of this post. Should we just assume it to be the work of Louis Saul Langfier, because of the embossed signature? Or would it be better to attribute this work (and presumably many others) to photographer Carl H T Schmidt? After all, credit where credit is due!

Newspaper clippings courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive; The British Library Board. Further research carried out using Ancestry and The Gazette.

Any mistakes are my own! Please feel free to contact me with corrections/further information.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Louis Saul Langfier (Photographer)

    • I gather this kind of dance was fashionable at the time! Or so my daughter tells me 😁. I’m in two minds as to whether the dancer was amateur or professional… possibly she was taking part in a production of some kind. Pity there’s no date on it!

      Liked by 1 person

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