When Herbert Quick was five years old and living with his parents in Manistique, Michigan, his father, a banker and amateur photographer, encouraged the boy's interest in photography by handing him an old wet-plate camera that had belonged to Quick's grandfather. This was not the sort of camera one would think to hand to a child of five, but Quick nonetheless was taught to coat the plates himself, expose them in the camera, and then to process and make prints from them. For a darkroom he and his father used an old chicken coop, which no doubt added to the tedium of an already tedious procedure. An aunt took pity on Quick, however, and provided him with a Kodak box camera that was much more convenient to use, allowing him to range further afield to find his subjects. A few of the surviving photographs made with the box camera have been included here -- a small print of a Michigan landscape, an elegant little still life, and several photographs depicting circus scenes.
It would be easy to dismiss these first efforts as the learning exercises of a child, but the choice of subjects and the quality of the results are so entirely beyond our expectations that we must regard them at very least as the first solid products of a natural, evolving talent. Moreover, the aesthetic he denies today, except as afterthought, is everywhere present in these early works -- clean, sophisticated, and confident of its ground. Compared to the work produced in later years, they hold up surprisingly well and provide valuable insights that help us understand the body of work now before us.