Born in Northern Ireland in 1868, no information exists on George Henry Hana's parentage or early education beyond that he likely learned photographic processes in his native country as a young apprentice. He traveled to the United States to practice his trade as the lead operator at John B. Scholl's prestigious theatrical photography studio. Here, he met (and subsequently married) the studio's business manager Sarah Romilda Graham. Later, the couple had a son, George G. Hana. After a brief professional stint in New York, Mr. Hana moved his family to London in 1893, setting up shop at 1 Regent Street in Westminster. Within two years, business was booming, and included two impressive orders each to produce 26,000 cabinet cards.
From November 1894 until November 1897, Mr. Hana worked out of a studio at 443 Strand in Westminster, after which he moved his operations to Bedford Street, also in Westminster. By this time, he had clearly established himself as one of the world's premier theatrical photographers. Many of his photographs were featured in The Sketch, a popular weekly newspaper catering to the social elite. An 1899 feature article in The Photogram found nothing particularly remarkable about Mr. Hana's gallery, describing it as "just a studio with good diffused light, good lenses, worked at fairly large apertures, quick plates, a quick operator, and a few assistants who thoroughly understand and follow up on their chief's methods." What distinguished Mr. Hana from his contemporaries was his impressive ability to pose his sitters naturally and to elicit moving facial expressions that reflected their unique personalities. He felt the photographer's greatest aesthetic assets were creative uses of inventiveness and observation. His keen eye for design and detail made compelling uses of light and shadow to generate what appeared to be motion in still photography. No detail from apparel folds to body language was overlooked. The result was a successful balance of drama and understatement. Performers of the period regarded sitting for George Henry Hana as an important professional rite of passage.
By 1901, the successful photographer was living at 25 Halesworth Road in the London borough of Lewisham. Within fifteen years, Mr. Hana further solidified his industry reputation by being elected President of the Professional Photographers' Association. Although sidelined for several years by a major surgical procedure performed in 1919, Mr. Hana received international attention as a council member for the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), when he supported the admission of assistants into what had historically been a masters' only affiliation. He eloquently argued that granting associate membership to assistant photographers would strengthen the Association's primary objective, "the betterment of photography." Seventy-year-old George Henry Hana died on December 31, 1938, leaving behind a photographic profession that was stronger and better because of his artistry and industry contributions.
1922 Bulletin of Photography, Vol. XXXI (Philadelphia: Frank V. Chambers), pp. 722, 724-725.
2015 Hana, George Henry (URL: http://www.photolondon.org.uk/pages/details.asp?pid=3449).
2015 Percy Grainger, State Library of New South Wales (URL: http://statelibrarynsw.tumblr.com).
1895 The Photogram, Vol. II (London: Dawbarn & Ward), p. 71.
1899 The Photogram, Vol. VI (London: Dawbarn & Ward), pp. 69-72.
2014 W.C. Fields from Burlesque and Vaudeville to Broadway: Becoming a Comedian by Arthur Frank Wertheim (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), p. 158.
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