William Henry Burbank was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on October 18, 1853. A few years' later, his family moved to Vermont, living there until 1865 when they all headed West. After living in Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas, the family returned to their New England roots, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Burbank attended Boston Latin and Cambridge High Schools before entering Harvard University, during which time he studied fine arts under the tutelage of Professor Charles Eliot Martin.
After graduating from Harvard in 1876, Mr. Burbank studied for three years at Cambridge's Episcopal Theological School, and after becoming a minister was sent to a mission in New Hampshire, which is where his fascination with photography began. His first camera was "a Walker box," which became his constant companion as he photographed the lush New Hampshire landscape. Rev. Burbank studied photography as enthusiastically as he did theology, and soon became a respected expert on the subject. His first textbook on photography, "Photographic Printing Methods," was published in July 1887. He followed up its success the following year with "The Photographic Negative," in which he analyzes various plates and types of photographic techniques. In the Preface to "The Photographic Negative," he explains his intentions: "I have sought to make a practical book, valuable alike to the amateur and to the professional."
In addition to his ministerial duties, Rev. Burbank continued sharing his knowledge with photography enthusiasts worldwide. He became a monthly contributor to the Photographic Times, penning reviews that appeared in their "Pictures of the Month" and "Chips from an Amateur's Workshop" sections. His language proficiency enabled him to provide insightful reviews of foreign language photographic publications. He also presented in-depth analyses of his own preferred techniques in The Art Amateur.
With a Scovill Detective Camera in hand, Rev. Burbank traveled to Great Britain, where he completed several photographic assignments before returning to the United States, where he began shifting his focus to learning about various types of printing, including photomechanical and photoengraving processes. Relocating to Brunswick, Maine, Rev. Burbank became an editor for the local publication, The American Amateur Photographer. He constructed his own detective camera and used his lantern slide expertise to publish another informative text for the amateur photographer, Lantern Slide Making (1890). The date of William Henry Burbank's death is unknown, but he remained active in the ministry until at least 1912, and likely continued sharing his love of photography to educate other enthusiastic amateurs like himself. His classic Photographic Printing Methods is still in print.
1890 The American Amateur Photographer, Vol. II (Brunswick, ME: American Photographic Publishing Company), p. 453.
1888 The Photographic Negative (New York: Scovill Manufacturing Company), p. 4.
1891 Photographic Printing Methods (New York: Scovill & Adams Company), pp. xiii, 217-219.
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