Paul Gunter - Louisville Photographer

By Rebecca S. Rice
Special Collections Assistant

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The Filson Historical Society’s Special Collections Department recently acquired an important addition to its photograph and print collection. Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gunter donated a photograph collection containing the work of Mr. Gunter’s grandfather, photographer Paul Gunter, who was active in Louisville, Kentucky, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

There is little biographical information available on Gunter, but it is known that he was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1857, the son of Herman and Karoline Gunter. Herman Gunter was a builder and a professional photographer, who served as the official court photographer to King Charles of Hanover. Gunter’s older brother, Herman, Jr., was also a photographer. Perhaps because of limited opportunity in the family business, Paul Gunter immigrated to the United States. He settled in Louisville in 1878 and married Johanna Struck (1856-1924) on July 4, 1888. He died on August 9, 1936, and is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.

According to Louisville city directories, in 1887 Gunter was employed as an artist with Stuber and Bro., a prominent photography studio at 434 East Market Street. By 1891 he had succeeded Daniel Stuber as proprietor. Gunter successfully ran the photography studio at the Market Street address until 1900 and opened a second studio at 309 Fourth Street in 1901. By 1903 Gunter had closed both of his studios, and from 1907 to1928 he worked as both a photographer and retoucher with Standiford’s Studios in Louisville.

The collection contains Gunter’s personal family photographs taken in both Hanover, Germany, and Louisville as well as pictures of the artist himself. There are also images of people and places in and around Louisville. African-American life was another subject that interested Gunter. These photographs include an old woman at her spinning wheel and a traveling musician with a bass fiddle and are among the most historically significant images in the collection. Outdoor settings provided Gunter with some of his most impressive and artistic photographs. Of particular interest are his photographs of Cherokee Park which include pastoral vistas and Beargrass Creek.

Like other prominent Louisville photographers of the time, such as Klauber, Doerr, Elrod, and Stuber, Paul Gunter’s work undoubtedly is represented in the personal collections of countless Louisville families and in the photograph collections of many historical institutions. What makes this collection so significant is that it is Gunter’s personal collection and more completely documents and preserves the legacy of his work. The photographs reveal more than Gunter’s skill as a commercial photographer. In them is seen his favorite subject material as well as his interest in and experimentation with evolving photographic techniques, such as lighting and focus. These photographs show the growth and development of Gunter as an artist. Having his collection now available for study at The Filson will certainly bring him the greater recognition he deserves.

Volume 2, Number 1

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