Michigan photography dealer Tom Halsted passed away peacefully on December 8th from complications from pneumonia contracted just two weeks before, which had put him in the hospital. A service will be held on December 22nd.
Halsted had been a beloved photography dealer for nearly 50 years (he opened his gallery in 1969); had been a founding member of AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers); and had been elected AIPAD's second president. As his daughter Wendy wrote to many of us, "The world of photography was such a large part of my dad's and now my life. It was something we shared and I am blessed to have had those decades to learn from him, but also spend so much time together. Fifty years ago he started the gallery as a result of a passion that he held until the end. As much as he got from the photo world, he gave back so much more."
Indeed. I had in fact even recommended that AIPAD give one of their Life Time Achievement awards to one of their own, Tom Halsted, two years ago. It's sad that we can't seem to honor our peers while they are still alive and able to feel the respect from those in their own field. Tom's tenure as an art photography dealer eclipsed virtually all still in the business.
Here are some details of Tom's life shared with me by his daughter Wendy.
Tom Halsted was born on July 12, 1937 in Birmingham MI. He was always interested in photography, working at the local camera store in high school as well as being the photographer for the school paper. He was a drummer in a band with his lifelong friends, one of whom he joined in NY in 1960. It was then he began taking pictures seriously. His friendship with Noel (Paul Stookey) led him to the world of folk and rock music where he photographed for musicians such as Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dillon and Joan Biaz.
Tom met his wife in New York and got married in 1963 when they returned and settled back in Birmingham MI. Halsted then opened an advertising photography business, taking "fine art" photos on the side.
In 1969 he wandered into Lee Witkin's gallery in New York City. A friendship formed and three months later he opened his own gallery in Birmingham, MI in 1969 in an old house on Maple Road.
He forged friendships with some of the great photographers, such as Ansel Adams, Andre Kertesz, Berenice Abbott, Harry Callahan, Imogene Cunningham and many more. He helped build collectable markets for their images and those of many other artists. He taught people how to look at a photograph and understand why they were special, and deserving of the designation of art. He sold to museums and collectors all over the country.
There were only a handful of galleries at the time dedicated to photography. Fifty years later, the Halsted Gallery is still a family business and is now the oldest still in continuing existence. Tom hired and was a mentor for many of today's dealers, including Peter MacGill (see the next article by Peter MacGill on Tom Halsted) and Edwynn Houk.
Here are some of the many loving comments from Tom's peers and friends, coming mostly from AIPAD's online forum:
"Tom Halsted, for decades, remained my closest friend in the photography business. We took trips together, shared good times and bad, and had a thousand laughs along the way. The only thing Tom took seriously was business. He was one of the first dealers in photography, opening in 1969, and he trained some of the most renowned dealers in the field. He was proud of his family, and his daughter, Wendy carries on his legacy. We will miss his humor and his easygoing ways. The field is diminished by his absence." --Stephen White
"How profound this loss is for all of us in the photography world. Tom was the second president of AIPAD, when the photography market was in its infancy. He holds much credit for making it grow. Tom was such a big part of photography for Paul and me, particularly in the early years of our careers--always delightful to be with and a true colleague. I will always remember, especially, how generous he was to me when I first joined Paul in the business, helping me make contacts in many cities where we knew nobody. I’m not sure I could have done it without him. We will miss him!" --Susan Herzig
"Tom Halsted’s death is hard to fully grasp. Over the past decade we had lunch every month when one of us was not traveling. His legacy here in Michigan of promoting fine art photography is legendary. My first recollection of Tom was meeting him at an exhibition of Ansel Adams photographs at his new 831 Gallery in 1970. Seeing those photographs in person was unforgettable. But they were $400, far beyond my budget as a graduate student and for the most part unheard for a photograph at the time. Still, they were magical. Seven years later, when Ed Houk was director of the gallery, I purchased “Clearing Winter Storm” for $825 plus $20 for its archival mat. That photograph still hangs in our home. Every time I look at it I think of Ansel, Ed and Tom. However, my strongest memory of Tom is his joy of being with people and his gift for lighthearted conversation. When we were out and about, he would walk up to complete strangers and strike up a conversation: in a restaurant, on the street, anywhere. But Tom could also be serious and introspective. In addition to his knowledge of photography, that is part of our friendship that I will always treasure." --Len Walle
"Tom Halsted was a pioneer in the field of photography. He opened one of the earliest galleries devoted solely to exhibiting and selling photographs in 1969, when it could only reasonably be done for love of the medium or serious lack of business acumen. And he prospered through his enthusiasm for photography, his good eye, and especially for the way he treated people. His warmth and fair dealing extended to artists, collectors, and even his employees. Tom will be remembered with admiration and affection for many reasons. But in my case, above all for his gentlemanly treatment of all who shared his love of life and photography." --Edwynn Houk
"It is a very sad time now when we lose someone so respected in our field. Whenever I saw Tom, we never spoke about photography. It was always about his love for Michigan football. Whenever I watched a Michigan game, I rooted for them just for Tom's sake. When Ohio State demolished Michigan a few weeks ago, I could only think of Tom and how heartbroken he would be. AIPAD will miss him greatly. My deepest condolences to Wendy and her family." --Henry Feldstein
"Tom and I, in the good ol' days of the rivalry between the NY Knicks and the Detroit Piston's "Bad Boys", had a wonderful time talking basketball--a great way to share our friendship beyond the work place. Tom will never be replaced. Warmest regards to Wendy and the Halstead family." –Larry Miller
"Such sad news. Along with Lee Witkin, Tom was there at the beginning of the latest wave of photography collecting. And he was a former AIPAD Prez. He will be greatly missed, especially by the seniors among us…" --Lee Marks
"Tom was a kind, sweet man, who helped all that he met. His graciousness and early leadership with AIPAD sets an example for all of us, and, as a pioneer in the field, he plowed the ground that has made it easier for our entire photo community. Tom is one of the giants whose shoulders we stand on. He was a dear friend and fellow wine lover, and the nicest man in the photo business. I remember his quirky sense of humor and more than a few pleasant conversations over bottles of wine with Tom and fellow wine enthusiasts, such as the Singers, and Paul and Susan. I wish Wendy and the rest of Tom’s family the very best and send them all a big hug." –Alex Novak
"I am so saddened to hear of Tom's passing. As a young, naive dealer starting out in 1981, Tom was a kind of hero of mine. He was very supportive of my endeavors and was always willing to give me advice and encouragement. He was an incredibly honest, ethical and generous dealer, who always maintained a great sense of humor. So many of us owe Tom gratitude for paving the way when selling photographs seemed impossible. He really was a shining example of how a dealer should behave. Without really knowing it, I have tried to be like Tom in my business dealings. A lot of us have. He will be sorely missed. I was honored to know Tom and call him my friend. My heart goes out to Wendy and her family. She had the best parents anyone could hope for. AIPAD will not be the same without Tom’s presence." --Terry Etherton
"I remember meeting Tom at the very first AIPAD at The Roosevelt Hotel. He was sweet, kind and welcoming despite my youth and inexperience. And he continued to be warm, funny and charming whenever our paths crossed. My condolences and hugs to Wendy and the Halsted family. He will be missed." –Yancey Richardson
"I would also like to add that Tom was always very helpful with hints about things in the trade to me when we did fairs together as I was getting to understand the big smoke. My wife Jeanne and I first met Tom in Detroit when we were visiting the city, since my wife was from Detroit and from the same part of town originally, before moving to Australia. Tom and his wife also managed to come out to Australia on a visit and looked us up. We add our condolences and well wishes to Wendy and her family." -- Josef Lebovic
"What a sad loss for the photography community! Tom was one of our trailblazers. He truly should be credited with helping to launch our industry. What a kind, decent and funny man he was! Always flexing his sarcastic wit, keeping me on the edge of whether he was being serious or just kidding! I will truly miss him. My sincerest condolences to Wendy and the family." --Robert Mann
"Several years ago I was doing an appraisal of the archive of a well-known New York advertising photographer named Howard Zieff who later came west and became a successful film director. Going through 8,000-plus photographs, I came across this image that I was sure was Tom Halsted but I could not figure out how his image ended up in the archive. I showed the cell phone snap I made of the photograph to Tom at an AIPAD show and he told me that he worked for Zieff in the early 1960s while getting his own career as New York photographer off the ground. Zieff had an eye for distinctive faces and Tom fit into that category. Like so many other comments, I will always remember Tom as a warm and generous human being with a vast knowledge of photography, jazz and so many other things. I can’t think of too many other second-generation photography galleries, but Tom managed to make the field appealing to his daughter Wendy. May she enjoy many successful years both as a tribute to Tom and her own keen sense of the trade as it exists today." --Michael Dawson
"This is very sad news indeed. Tom was visiting a client in Toronto (it took 18 years to figure out who it was) soon after I opened, and made a point of coming to my gallery. He made a very big impression on me. I always loved being unsure if he was being serious or was pulling my leg, and he reminded me of a fun-loving uncle. I am thinking now of hanging out with him after a long day in the Hilton during AIPAD, sharing stories and drinking cosmopolitans. I can hear him belt out the first line of my county’s national anthem, which remained his way of saying "hi" to me. We all owe him much for being such a pioneer, and I know we will all miss his "tom" foolery. Deep condolences to Wendy and her family." –Stephen Bulger
"To Florence and me, it was not the Canadian anthem but always a few words in French. Tom was indeed a truly generous and kind and funny dealer--one who accepted us coming into the field with enthusiasm and pleasure. A great contributor to photography and to AIPAD. Like all, we will miss his visits on our booth, and his jokes and kind words. Warm wishes to Wendy and the family." --Roland Baron
"Tom represented the very best of our business; with his encyclopedic knowledge, extreme generosity and unfailing kindness toward friends, colleagues and strangers alike. His passing marks more than just the man himself; it marks the passing of a type of person so rare. It's as if they had truly broken the mold." –Paul Kopeikin
"Tom was impish, playful and very, very kind. He will be missed by all who ever had the pleasure of knowing him. Wendy, how lucky you were to have had him as a father. My sincere condolences to you and your beautiful family. With sadness and fond memories." –Lisa Sette
"When I joined the AIPAD community over 20 years ago, Tom was the guy who came around to offer friendship and help. For free. And he loved a good tintype! My sympathies to Wendy, family, friends." –Steve Kasher
"Hell, Steve, he LOOKED like a good tintype…especially when he was sporting that beard that followed his jawline. Southworth and Hawes eat your heart out. You missed him." --Alan Klotz
"I will miss Tom as well. He was always very generous with me and very encouraging, when I first started working in the field right out of college. His kindness and support gave me courage and inspiration to continue to pursue a career in this field. My condolences and well wishes go out to Wendy and her family." --Tom Gitterman
"There was no one like him. From the hallways of J. Walter Thompson, where he started as an Ad Exec. to the president of AIPAD in its beginning, Tom‘s gallery was one of the first to pioneer the concept that fine art photography could be considered a collectable just like a Picasso painting. His contribution to our field cannot be overstated: his comradery, good nature plus his efforts to lend a helping hand to those coming into our organization. Add to that a tremendous comic nature and a vast sense of humor. He never met anyone whom he didn’t see as a potential friend, with a unique capacity to find a mutual interest--be it tintypes, theater, wine, music and, of course, photography. Over the years we shared many wonderful bottles of wine and went touring in Napa. He had a vast knowledge of Bordeaux wines amongst his areas of expertise! We loved his greeting: 'Hey Kid'. We’ll all be remembering and toasting Tom on the 22nd!" --Barry Singer
"Tom was always the kind of person who made you proud to be in our profession. Friendly, knowledgeable, approachable, fair and with a sense of humor. He will be missed. My deepest condolences to Wendy, and his family and friends." –James Danzinger
"Though we did not get to see each other nearly often enough, Tom has always been a good friend. We will sorely miss him." –Gail Gibson
"So sorry to hear that Tom Halsted passed away. A truly decent guy, very personable and engaging and probably never missed exhibiting at an AIPAD fair. He started out as a photographer, and, like me, he found his way into the art photography community. He will be missed, and I hope Wendy continues to be a presence among us. My warmest condolences to Wendy and family." --Keith de Lellis
"This is sad news for our community. I did not know Tom well, but I clearly remember he was very warm and kind to me at my earliest AIPAD shows, and always eager to chat and help however needed. His reputation will be forever remembered in this industry." --Sid Monroe
"It is quite fitting to have so many members respond to the sad news about Tom. What a great loss to our community. I have really loved reading all your messages. Says a lot about Tom. I feel very lucky to have known him." --Missy Finger
"Tom Halsted was a powerful advocate for photography--and for photographers--in Michigan. Tom was a pioneer in the business of operating a gallery for fine photography; his space in Birmingham’s 'Gallery Gulch' became a gathering place for collectors and students of photography, attracting the likes of Ansel Adams and Michael Kenna for shows and book-signings. Tom had an appreciation for the classics, including Julia Margaret Cameron, P. H. Emerson, the Photo-Secessionists and Edward S. Curtis, and he also provided a venue for talented younger photographers like Bill Schwab. In recent years, Tom was a Board Member of the Michigan Photographic Historical Society, and he brought his knowledge, enthusiasm, and quirky sense of humor to the table. Although his daughter, Wendy Halsted Beard, is carrying on the Halsted Gallery’s activities at a new location in Birmingham, Tom's passing is a significant loss for the photography community in Detroit, in Michigan, and beyond." --Bill Becker
To see Tom with the beard and in early photos with many famous photographers, click on this link here: https://www.halstedgallery.com/gallery-history/.