Photograph Courtesy of the Alice Austen House by Floto + Warner, Clear Comfort, 2015, © Floto + Warner
Alice Austen first picked up a camera in 1876 at the age of ten and went on to become one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers. Throughout the course of her life she captured nearly 8,000 images of subjects ranging from portraits and stills of home life in the Victorian era, to early Manhattan street photography of immigrants and working class people at the turn of the twentieth century. Austen routinely broke with the restrictive societal norms of her time to become an independent and accomplished female artist.
Austen’s home in Staten Island, known as Clear Comfort, was built in 1690 as a one-room Dutch farmhouse. The farmhouse was purchased in 1844 by her grandfather John Haggerty Austen and she moved in as a young girl with her mother in the late 1860s. Austen spent most of her life at Clear Comfort with her partner Gertrude Tate, until financial troubles resulting from the depression and a dwindling inheritance forced them to move. After Austen’s departure, the house fell into disrepair until a group of concerned citizens saved it from demolition in the 1960s. In the 1980s the house was restored has since been recognized as an LGBTQ Historic Landmark, National and New York City Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photograph Courtesy of the Alice Austen House
Clear Comfort is now a house museum and gallery that honors the legacy of Alice Austen by displaying her work and that of contemporary photographers and providing classes for younger generations to learn the art of photography. On September 15th, join Untapped Cities on a docent led tour of the historic home’s 19th century period rooms and exhibitions, and spend time relaxing on the waterfront grounds. Guests on the tour will also get to attend the opening of a showcase of work from students of the Alice Austen House’s educational programs.
If you are or become an Untapped Cities Insider, you can attend this event for free!
Self Portrait by Alice Austen, Photograph Courtesy of the Alice Austen House