by Thomas Yanul
One winter evening, following a dismal day of yellow fog and blizzardy winds, when I sat disconsolate and weary, not knowing what to do with myself, in my room in a Chicago hotel, Dundas Todd paid me a visit. At that time he had not yet gone into bee culture but was still writing his able educational articles for THE BEACON.[the Photo Beacon]
 [ ed.note-Photographer/publisher Todd left Chicago about 1906 and moved permanently to British Columbia, Canada, where he became a bee keeper with the government-he did not publish or participate in photographic circles again]
So we talked on general photographic matters, until he made the apparently very casual remark that some of the top notchers of the profession were holding an unceremonious confab at the Lexington, [hotel] criticising each other's prints, discussing the situation, and having a good time all around. Well, I suggested, we will join them. "I do not exactly know," murmered Todd, whether"--then he got up and disappeared for while. There was a decided mystery about the affair. When he came back he said: "Yes, they would like to meet you."  So we started and were ushered into a hotel parlor with prints on a round table in the middle and plenty of liquid food on the mantelpiece and dressers, while a dozen men or more were distributed in groups about the room.  There were present at this memorable occasion big jolly  J.C.[Strauss] and Godlove, his loyal adjutant; Kraffl from Knoxville [most likely Knaffl of Knaffl Bros]; genial Rinehart from Omaha; sturdy Stein of Milwaukee; of course, also, the Commodore with one of his sons [M.J. Steffens & son Leo] and if I remember rightly, Edmonson from Cleveland [probably G.W. Edmondson], and Frank Scott Clark from Detroit.  Surely a striking bunch of personalities that one could not easily forget, and among them Frank Scott Clark held peculiarly his own. There was an esthetic flavor about his face and figure, and a mild magnetism that must have done him many a good turn under the skylight. He seemed to be the artist of the crowd.  This was 1902, or thereabouts.  Clark was already well known in the profession. He had strated as early as 1880, when he worked for W.T. Richardson, an English practitioner in New York City. Then he drifted to J.M. Brainard's studio in Rome, N.Y.. In 1892 he came to Detroit, and the result was the opening of the well-known studio of Huntington & Clark.   In 1902 the parnership was dissolved, and Clark started for himself in that quant little frame building on Woodward avenue, so unlike other establishhments, impressing one by its home-like atmosphere, where photography is practised not so much a business as an art.  Clark went his own way, and easily took his place in the front rank, in which he had so long deserved to be.  For twenty-two years he has remained loyal to Detroit, and no portrait photographer has depicted Detroit society so completely or in a manner so varied. None has represented more truly or more delicately the characteristic traits of it inhabitants, the expression of their faces, their gestures, and the love for contrast that strikes the visitor as being one of the characteristics of woman's dress in the State of Michigan. All his pictures are marked with the characteristic imprint of an artist's talent --full of grace and poetry and sweetness.  From the countless portraits of men, women and children, all marked by an external resemblance, and realizing in a characteristic manner the essentials of the person depicted, the writer of these lines has selected a dozen or more for illustraitive purposes. It did not take him long, as nearly all prints showed a certain standard of perfection. The average quality of Clark's work is truly astonishing in its evenness or workmanship, its artistic taste, and beauty of quiet, well-harmonized tonalities.  His little studio building is admirably adapted to its purpose. There are several rooms on the ground floor, all well proportioned and pleasantly lighted and arranged so as to set off to good advantage the simple, old-fashioned furniture and the few pictures exhibited in them.  There are but few of Clark's prints in evidence, even the large portfolios lie in an inconspicuous corner in the studio.  Clark does not make a habit of showing his former work to new customers.
If they insist on seeing examples he is willing enough to display them, but he rather avoids it, as he does not want his patrons to get, at the spur of the moment, a preconceived notion of what they want. He is inclined to think that it limits the freedom of the operator.  He prefers to be at perfect ease with his sitters and obey the dictates of his own inspiration and experience.  No doubt, his power of interpretation is increased thereby. He can bring out the "good qualities" more convincingly and exercise his powerful and expressive technique without any counter influence.  If we had to pick out the quality  that puts Frank Scott Clark in the front rank of our portraitists, I should say it is his mastery over what I may, for want of a better term, call spontaneous preciseness, a compromise between freedom of effect and the exigencies of most scrupulous composition.
  [ed note: the following text was meant to be used with illustrations of Clark photos. The copy of which are not of sufficient quality in my copy to use here. If I can find an original copy of the magazine issue I will scan and add to this webpage]
"Let us take up at the random a few his prints.  The young lady in a black toque is in exquisite rendering of a vivacious subject, very subtle despite its contrasts and most attractive in its freshness and luminosity of tones. Equally worthy of consideration is the white-haired gentleman with the cigarette (Julius Rolshoven), a record of top and side light treated with splendid confidence, while one of the most commanding  pictures, in its power of direct statement, is the bust of Fournier, the landscape painter, a transcription of character seen with true individuality and set down with sincere conviction. A very different type of interpretation is illustrated in the bride and mother and child picture, exquisite studies of detail, rendered with extraordinary daintiness and delicacy of sentiment. The brother and sister portrait also claims particular mention as a print which has both soundness of technical treatment and definite grace in grouping. Its lightness of tone is pleasant, and its reticence of representation hints at a reserve of strength which easily masters all the intricate moods and expression of the human contenance.  There are many other charming achievements on these pages, delightfully imagined and perfectly realized, but we must leave their appreciation to the good taste of the reader, as the scope of this article does not permit of the critical exploitation of any print in particular. Clark is an exponent of straight forward studio photography. He even calls himself a theoretical exponent of home portraiture. This at first hearing sounds like a paradox, as Clark (as he himself admits it) owes some of his finest achievements to the prevalent methods of home portraiture. But it is easily enough explained. Every portraitist who takes his profession seriously must at times feel the inadequacies of this method, as expressed in snapshotty poses and haphazard lighting. Too much depends on accident. It is impossible to control all the vagaries of new environment and uncontrollable atmospheric conditions, while in efficient studio work everything is guided by arrangements and requisites with which the operator is thoroughly familiar. He  can use more forethought and calculation, and in that way do more justice to the personality of the sitter and the laws of composition.  For this reason studio work affords more interesting and sincere opportunities than any other method of delineation.  And it is only when an experienced camera worked like Clark can combine the persuasive spontaneity of home portraiture with the sustained qualities of selection and arrangement that he can produce works that are as individual as they are convincing.
Frank Scott Clark is one of the most consumate stylists in portraiture whom the American school has ever possessed.  His portraits have a supreme interest as examples of dignified design from which all the other trivialities have been eliminated and in which the great salient facts are stated with perfect appreciation of their value. His sense of form, too, is as true as his feeling for tone, so that there is no flaw in the harmony of his work, and there is no direction in which he fails to make his artistic intentions perfectly intelligible.  No doubt Clark owes much to his love of art. He has always been somewhat of a painter, and not later than a month ago, as we sat on the sunlit lawn that surrounds his little corner cottage, he expressed the desire to abandon photography and to take up painting, largely for pleasure's sake but seriously I looked at him, doubtful at the moment whether he really meant it. And as I gazed at his calm, strong and gentle face, on which the struggles of a long career have left no trace, but on which it is easy to make out, behind the gentleness, a resolute will that nothing can discourage, I realized that Clark would be successful in whatever he would earnestly undertake, while his strong, healthy frame would help him to be equal to many more years of work. The quiet enthusiasm, the persistent seeking after truth, the absence of affectation which distinguished the whole of his production, have made Frank Scott Clark an artist in the fullest meaning of the word.
His work will always express a noble singleness of aim and the observations and beliefs of a man who went his own way."