Fullerton Exhibition Showcases Early Days of Long Island

Fullerton Exhibition

Here at the Nazmiyal Blog of Design and Style, we take great pleasure in all forms of artistic expression. While antique Oriental rugs are our great passion, we also appreciate work such as the new exhibition at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, NY, which showcases the photography of Hal B. Fullerton, a nineteenth century employee of the Long Island Railroad, whose amateur photography of a nascent Long Island is both charming and impressively composed.

When the work of a nineteenth century amateur photographer and special agent for the Long Island Railroad are the basis for a special exhibition at an art museum, there must be an interesting story to be told. Beginning on April 27 and running through August 4, the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, New York is showing just such an exhibition, titled “Scooters, Cranberry Pickers and ‘Whirling Dervishes’: Hal B. Fullerton’s Long Island,” a showing that consists of 31 original photographs that have been meticulously restored by admirers of Fullerton’s work. And while the photographs themselves are appealing and exciting compositions, it really is the story of their genesis that is most interesting.

In 1897, Hal B. Fullerton was charged by the Long Island Rail Road to create a campaign that would attract the masses to Long Island – both to visit and to settle. Something of a renaissance man with a background in agriculture, Fullerton took to the assignment with tremendous aplomb: his first publication – simply titled “Cyclist’s Paradise” – was responsible for attracting more than 150,000 cyclists to Long Island, which Fullerton had extensively photographed for the publication. And while Fullerton was never formally schooled in photographic technique, Lisa Chalif, who is curating the exhibition at the Heckscher Museum, has said that she is “impressed by the aesthetic and tonal qualities” of Fullerton’s work, which she believes has strong artistic merit.

Fullerton's Cranberry Pickers
Hal B. Fullerton’s photography includes many shots like this of cranberry pickers on Long Island. Rustic and charming, these photos brilliantly showcase their subjects.

Indeed, according to the Hecksher, Fullerton’s photographs “capture the picturesque, agrarian charm of [Long] Island, while also revealing aesthetic conventions seen in contemporary painting of the period.” This sentiment is one that has been echoed by Fullerton’s admirers, most especially be Neil Scholl, the individual perhaps most responsible for the Heckscher exhibition. According to Mr. Scholl, Fullerton “was a great documenter of Long Island, but he was also a great photographer.”  Scholl, who is himself a photographer based in Huntington, spent four years visiting the Suffolk County Historical Society in Riverhead with a colleague, photographing Fullerton’s negatives and then cleaning up those images in Photoshop – all on his own time.

The result of Mr. Scholl’s dedication and hard work is a fantastic exhibition of some truly remarkable photography. Fullerton’s work – which ranges widely in subject matter – is, despite Fullerton’s lack of formal training, largely representative of trends in painting and photography that were contemporaneously important, with some of the photos venturing on the abstract. According to an exhibition panel, Fullerton, like his contemporaries, “believed that the modern world demanded an avant-garde approach to art.”

Fullerton Boat Photograph
One of Fullerton’s more abstract pieces, this minimalist photo of a boat offers insight into Fullerton’s artistic sensibilities: contemporary and intriguing.

What makes “Scooters, Cranberry Pickers and ‘Whirling Dervishes’” a unique artistic exhibition is the unique story of the man behind it. Hal B. Fullerton may not have been an artist in the conventional understanding of the term, but the body of work he left behind has been inspirational and appealing to very many people. Combining the rustic charm of a layman’s work with the sophistication of an expert’s best compositions, the photography of Hal B. Fullerton has an enduring beauty that serves as a window into an age gone by.

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy other content on the Nazmiyal Blog of Design and Style — like this post about David Thomas Smith’s new exhibition in Dublin; this one about the Bouroullec Brothers’ new show at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris; or this one that includes an interview with Roger Pratt, a noted collector of antique rugs!

This blog was published by: Nazmiyal Antique Oriental Rugs