Front / Recto

  • Title Concourse, Jersey City Station
  • Negative Date 1915
  • Print Date 1915
  • Medium Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions Image 10 1/8 x 12 1/16" (25.7 x 30.6 cm)
  • Place Taken Jersey City
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
  • MoMA Accession Number 1756.2001
  • Description

    Before 1910, people traveling to New York and New Jersey, whether daily commuters or immigrants from Ellis Island, had to cross the Hudson River by ferry. In New Jersey the trains began and ended their runs at the shore of the Hudson, at the Communipaw train and ferry terminal in Jersey City, which for a century was a locus of modern metropolitan life and, for some eight million immigrants beginning their lives in America, a symbolic door to the future.

    To Walter Latimer, an engineer for a central New Jersey iron and steel foundry that made rails, switches, and railroad-car parts, the Communipaw station not only was associated with his line of business but also provided access to his other passions.[1] In 1914, at the age of thirty-six, he began a regular fifty-mile round-trip commute to Manhattan’s newly established Clarence H. White School of Photography, a professional photography school that emphasized fine art. There, in addition to meeting the woman he would later marry, Latimer mastered a variety of Pictorialist photographic printing processes, such as gum, carbon, bromoil, Platinum, and gelatin silver.

    He was also exposed to modernist art theory by Max Weber, a Russian-American artist of the Alfred Stieglitz circle who had studied in Paris with Henri Matisse. The mystically inclined Weber encouraged students to draw upon their personal, sensate experience to perceive the world afresh and help them give tangible form to unseen qualities. Latimer clearly absorbed the lesson; to him, the huge new train station shed designed by Abraham Lincoln Bush for the Central Railroad of New Jersey—twenty tracks wide and twice the length of a football field, making it the largest of its kind in the world—was an engineering triumph and object of pride but also a transcendent portal to the great modern city.

    This print demonstrates Latimer’s mastery of printing techniques. The sumptuous gray tonality, visible paper fibers, and matte surface make the print look deceptively like the platinum prints favored by White and his students, but signs of silver mirroring and the results of X-ray fluorescence analysis (which detects the work’s constitutive elements) reveal that the image material is silver. The metal is carried in gelatin embedded in the fibers of the one-hundred-percent-rag paper instead of, as is often the case with gelatin silver Developing-Out-Paper prints, being carried in an emulsion on top of a supportive and protective Baryta layer. The presence of chromium, generally added as a hardening agent for emulsions, suggests that Latimer applied the silver emulsion himself, which may also explain why he chose such a high-quality rag paper, as impurities in a lesser paper could have spoiled the unprotected metallic image. Latimer probably used a view camera called a Cycle Graphic, with which he took another image of the concourse. The camera was thus named to evoke the popular hobby of bicycling and because its back revolved or cycled, allowing for both landscape and portrait orientations of 5 by 7 inch (12.7 by 17.8 centimeter) sheet film.

    —Maria Morris Hambourg, Hanako Murata

    [1] Walther Latimer worked for Taylor-Wharton Iron Works in Hunterdon, New Jersey. See Bonnie Yochelson, “Photographs in the Thomas Walther Collection by Students of the Clarence H. White School of Photography,” Thomas Walther Collection research files, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art. See also Yochelson, “The Clarence H. White School of Photography,” on this website.

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type No mount
  • Marks and Inscriptions Inscribed in black marker on sheet verso, top left: W. R. Latimer, SR./Probably about 1916–7 [crossed out]/1915/Jersey City Station.
  • Provenance The artist, New Jersey; by inheritance to the artist's estate. Possibly sold through Christie's New York (sale 6234, lot 266) to Thomas Walther, November 11, 1986 [1]; given to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] Lot 00342, "Concourse, Jersey City, N.J. Station by Walter R. Latimer, 1915," was auctioned at Sotheby’s on November 1, 1988, which may be this print.


  • Surface Sheen Semireflective
  • PTM
    Detail view of the recto of the artwork made using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) software, which exaggerates subtle surface details and renders the features of the artwork plainly visible. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Micro-raking
    Raking-light close-up image, as shot. Area of detail is 6.7 x 6.7 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
    Raking-light close-up image, processed. Processing included removal of color, equalization of the histogram, and sharpening, all designed to enhance visual comparison. Department of Conservation, MoMA

Paper Material

  • Format Imperial
  • Weight Single weight
  • Thickness (mm) 0.18
  • UV Fluorescence Recto negative
    Verso negative
  • Fiber Analysis Rag 57%
    Bast 43%
  • Material Techniques Developing-out paper
    Baryta-less paper
  • XRF

    This work was determined to be a gelatin silver print via X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.

    The following elements have been positively identified in the work, through XRF readings taken from its recto and verso (or from the mount, where the verso was not accessible):

    • Recto: Al, Si, P, S, Ca, Cr, Zn, Ag, Pb
    • Verso: Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Ca, Cr, Zn, Pb

    The graphs below show XRF spectra for three areas on the print: two of the recto—from areas of maximum and minimum image density (Dmax and Dmin)—and one of the verso or mount. The background spectrum represents the contribution of the XRF instrument itself. The first graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the lower energy range (0 to 8 keV). The second graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the higher energy range (8 to 40 keV).

    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Ca, Cr, Ag
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Zn, Ag, Pb

In Context

Related Images

Walter R. Latimer. Metallic Lace. 1915. Hess-Ives print. BHL Collection. Maryland Historical Society
Walter R. Latimer. Bunch of Color. 1915. Platinum print. BHL Collection. Maryland Historical Society

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