Sipprell was born on Halloween, 1885, in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada. In 1895 (after her father’s death), she and her mother moved from Canada to Buffalo. In the early 1900s, Buffalo was a center of the pictorialism. Sipprell became one of the foremost practitioners of pictorial photography in the United States. She produced autochromes and platinum, bromoil, gum, and carbon prints; won awards in exhibitions; and had her work published in magazines in the United States and Europe.
As a portrait photographer, Sipprell sought to convey a sense of the whole person and what made each unique. […] In 1915, Sipprell, then thirty, moved to New York City with Jessica E. Beers, with whom she lived until 1923. She opened a photographic studio in Greenwich Village and eventually became a contract photographer for the Ethical Culture School, where Beers was a principal.
A Russian immigrant, Irina Khrabroff, was first her student and later her traveling companion, close friend, and business manager. As a student, Khrabroff spent her winters living with Sipprell and Beers in New York City. In 1923, when Khrabroff married, Beers moved out of the apartment, but Sipprell continued living there with Khrabroff and her husband until 1933.
[…] It is not clear whether or not Sipprell’s relationships were sexual or even romantic, yet their length and stability, and the evidence of the memorial marker, indicate an extraordinary level of commitment. [Quoted from lgbtq encyclopedia: Sipprell, Clara Estelle (1885-1975) by Tee A. Corinne]
Clara E. Sipprell was one of America’s most important pictorial photographers of the early 20th century. Born in Canada, she moved to Buffalo, New York after her oldest brother Francis opened a photography studio. She worked part-time as an apprentice, but eventually dropped out of school to work full-time at his studio, where she learned all different types of photographic techniques. She partnered with him in 1905, and after working together for ten years and having many successful shows, she opened a studio in New York City and eventually traveled all over the world.
Clara E. Sipprell’s use of a soft-focus lens and her reliance upon entirely natural light gave her photographs an atmospheric effect and moody romanticism. She was a successful portraitist, photographing such notable people as Eleanor Roosevelt, Robert Frost, and Albert Einstein. However, she did not confine herself to that genre. Her landscapes, cityscapes, and still-life subjects were exhibited in national and international salons, galleries, and museums. There are over 1,000 photographs by Sipprell in the Amon Carter Museum collection, a gift from The Dorothea Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc. The (then) Burchfield Art Center presented a solo exhibition of her work in 1991.
quoted from Burchfield Penney Art Center