George Blakeslee Sr., 88, founded photography agency in Baltimore during 1930s

September 14, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

George Walton Blakeslee Sr., co-founder of Blakeslee-Lane, a local commercial agency for photographers, died in his sleep Sept. 7 at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. The longtime Towson resident was 88.

The well-known business that Mr. Blakeslee and his partner, Horace P. Lane, founded in 1931 has been at 916 N. Charles St. since the mid-1940s. It is now known as Blakeslee Group Inc.

The studio was in an area that for years was known as Baltimore's "Photography Row," because of its proximity to such studios as Bachrach, Segall-Majestic and Udell Brothers.

Mr. Blakeslee, who bought out his partner in 1974, sold the business in 1980 and retired.

"Their darkrooms established a reputation for competency and technical excellence," according to a 1981 News American article.

The company specialized in high-quality photography of Baltimore businesses and their products. Its work was highly esteemed by local advertising agencies and its slide films and sepia-toned photo murals -- synonymous with Blakeslee-Lane -- were a favorite of Baltimore banks.

The subject matter included skyline views of Baltimore, historic landmarks, the Bay Bridge or racehorses charging out of the gates at Pimlico. The photo murals, "long a pet specialty of ours," said Mr. Blakeslee, were displayed in lobbies of banks, restaurants and offices.

"He was a grand old man of the commercial photography business and the consummate craftsman," said Gilbert Sandler, founder of Sandler & Associates, a Baltimore advertising and public relations firm. "For years, [Blakeslee-Lane] was one of the most sophisticated [companies] because they actually had their own studio in an era when a lot of photographers simply showed up with a camera to photograph a client's product."

Mr. Sandler described Mr. Blakeslee as a "low-key, even-tempered guy" who was never "sharp or intemperate and certainly not a prima donna."

Born and raised in Forest Park, Mr. Blakeslee was active in the Forest Park High School Camera Club, where he met his future partner, Mr. Lane, during the 1920s. He worked as a photographer at The Evening Sun, and then joined Mr. Lane at the old Baltimore News in the late 1920s, where they photographed furniture and other merchandise for advertisers.

After being laid off during the Great Depression, they formed a partnership and went into business in a small two-room office at 106 E. Pleasant St., where the Baltimore News offered them a flat rate per photo.

Soon, Baltimore department stores Hutzler's, Hecht Co., Stewart's and Hochschild-Kohn began using Blakeslee-Lane, and the company moved to expanded quarters at 343 St. Paul St., before moving to its present home.

During World War II, Mr. Blakeslee served with the U.S. Coast Guard and was assigned to the U.S. Naval Photographic Science Laboratory in Washington. He was discharged with the rank of petty officer.

In addition to photography, Mr. Blakeslee enjoyed sailing the bay in his 40-foot powerboat.

Services were private.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, the former Lillian Davis; a son, Walt Blakeslee of Baltimore; a daughter, Carol Mistler of Herndon, Va.; a sister, Ruth Shaw of Raleigh, N.C.; and two grandsons.

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