University of Louisville University Libraries

DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

Royal Photo Company Collection

About Stern Bramson, 1912 - 1989

Bramson

Stern Bramson in his studio

Stern J. Bramson (1912-1989) was a Louisville commercial photographer whose work is housed at the University of Louisville Photographic Archives. Mr. Bramson's work is also represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dayton Art Institute, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the J.B. Speed Art Museum, and in many private collections.

Mr. Bramson attended DuPont Manual High School in Louisville. Upon graduation from high school in 1930, he joined the Royal Photo Company, the studio founded in 1904 by his father, Louis Bramson. Royal Photo Company was a large and thriving business, with offices in the downtown Louisville business district. Stern Bramson remained with the firm until 1972 except for a break for service with the Army Signal Corps during World War II. He eventually became Royal's principal photographer and was the owner of the studio after the death of his father. The business was sold in 1972, when Stern Bramson retired to devote his time to his show dogs and to operating the Vinecrest Kennel.

During his years at the Royal Photo Company, Mr. Bramson did commercial, medical, and legal photography. He photographed banquets, motion picture premieres, store windows, new cars and accident scenes. He also documented the construction of sites such as General Electric's Appliance Park and the University of Louisville Medical School. He built a state-wide business making group portraits with the firm's Cirkut camera.

The University of Louisville Photographic Archives acquired the Royal Photo Company negatives in 1981 as a gift from the Bingham family. Stern Bramson also joined the Photographic Archives at this time as a volunteer. Mr. Bramson assisted in the organization of the Royal Photo Company negatives and was organizing the Archives' aerial photographs at the time of his death.

Appreciation of the artistic merits of Stern Bramson's photographs came late in Mr. Bramson's life. The Photographic Archives produced an exhibition of his work in 1984 which was seen and admired by a diverse group of artists. Shortly after this exhibition, Mr. Bramson's work began to appear in publications and in advertisements. His work was recommended to the O.K. Harris Gallery in New York in 1987 by the photo-realist painter John Baeder. An exhibition there proved very successful and resulted in requests for wider distribution of a Bramson exhibition and for a limited-edition printing of selected works. The high point of Mr. Bramson's short exhibition career came in the summer of 1989 when he was honored with a showing of his work at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mr. Bramson donated proceeds from the sale of his prints to the exhibitions program at the Photographic Archives. After Mr. Bramson's death in December 1989, proceeds from the sale of the remaining prints, along with donations from family and friends of Mr. Bramson, were used to establish the Stern J. Bramson Memorial Fund. The Bramson Fund is used to make an annual award to a high school senior in the Louisville area who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in photography.

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