Hetzel, The Photographer (update)

My Great Grandpa, Leo Victor Hetzel was a photographer in El Centro, Southern California back near the turn of the century (1800-1900 that is), and recently while visiting my Grandma in Long Beach I happened (purposefully- lots of digging through piles of dust laden files and boxes) upon some of his old glass plate negatives. There are a number of these also stored at a museum in El Centro called the Pioneer Park Museum.

Most the negs are in great shape, and I was able to take pictures of them with my camera then convert (invert) them in lightroom to see what the prints might have looked like. What I was shocked by is the clarity these negs had. I mean, I pulled out a loupe (a close up viewing device) to inspect them close up and found more detail then my digital camera could capture, so these pictures in this post show about 70% of the detail. Its incredible. Some of these would be awesome to make into prints and due to the detail could be enlarged to a significant size.
Anyway, this is really exciting for me as I trace his path and history as a photographer over the years and how he got to where he was, but im sure its somewhat dull for everyone else so ill keep this one short.

Im tinkering with the idea of writing a fictional account of his life. What a story, and there are all the pictures to go along with it.


Posted on July 8, 2011, in People, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Ryan – this is fascinating stuff! Great grandpa Hetzel is an inspiration!

  2. I love this, awesome!

  3. Very cool. On another note, the typography on the envelope is amazing too!

  4. Love the “Hetzel-The photographer. Anything in photography” Time to rehash that me thinks……

  5. Thanks guys!
    Andy: aint that font funky?! Thinking i could reuse it…
    Kate: Yeah, watch this space….

  6. I just found a photo in my collection taken by Leo Hetzel of a business that was in El Centro, probably in the late 1930s or early 1940s. The business was Frank R. Brown Company. If you have any information about this, I’d love to hear it.

    • Hello,

      Well, my great grandfather was a photographer of many things. He was around in the time that the central valley really starting coming alive, so while I dont have specific details on Frank R. Brown, I would think it safe to assume it was a newer business. Leo ran a portrait studio in El Centro so he took a lot of people pictures but he also traveled extensively and was interested in the local area so he work covers a very broad range of subject.

      Thanks for the interest.


  7. Hello Ryan,
    My daughter, grandaughter, and I were at your Grandma’s birthday party and Leo and Ralph are my cousins. We grew up together as you can see in the pictures in your grandma’s hallway. We had a wonderful time celebrating our Aunt Irene and visiting with Leo.
    My daughter found your blog and shared with me. I have many of the same pictures of my Grandma and Grandma Hetzel and of course many fond memories of our time together. When we would spend the night at Grandma Hetzel’s, both Grandma and I would sleep on the back porch upstairs — because it was so hot in the summer. I would love to help with a book any way I can as it would be wonderful to put all our stories about Grandpa and Grandma Hetzel together.

    • Hello Pat,

      Yeah it was a great party! Granny has had such an amazing life so far and has some surrounded herself with such amazing people as well!
      Thats awesome that you use to sleep outside at Grannies! I thought I was the first! Ha! Yup, a book would be great. Did you see the book she wrote?
      See ya soon. Ryan.

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