George R. Lawrence was a unique photographer but mainly was a man of innovation and patenting. He began his artistic career by making enlargements of passport photos using crayons. As his workplace he had a small space that he had rented in a photographer’s studio. When the photographer disappeared one day, his whereabouts unknown, he left behind his equipment and darkroom.
He convinced a photographer to teach him the basics of the development and processing of photos, but from there on he was self taught. Within seven years he had become a famous commercial photographer specializing in large prints. The slogan of his photography studio was ‘The Hitherto Impossible in Photography Is Our Specialty’. The big challenge didn’t take too long to arrive. The Chicago & Alton Railway asked him to photograph their new train in a large photo to send to the International Exhibition of Paris in 1900, the same International Exhibition for which the Eiffel Tower was built.
In order for Lawrence to achieve this imagery, he built a huge camera named Mammoth and succeeded once again in the impossible. The Cramer Company of St Louis manufactured the 8 x 4½ ft glass plates and also produced the large sheets of sensitized paper used in making the contact prints. Bausch and Lomb Optical Company of Rochester made two lenses for the camera, a wide angle and a telephoto lens. The construction of the camera took two and a half months.
The three final photos picture cost 5000 dollars, which was an enormous amount for that time. But they gained by the huge advertisement and the main feature is the slogan used in literature, ‘The Largest Photograph in the World of the Handsomest Train in the World.’ Lawrence won the ‘Grand Prize of the World for Photographic Excellence’ with his photos in the Paris World Exhibition.
In the photo I have attached you can see Lawrence next to the massive lens camera holding the lens cap underneath his arm, at the time the photograph was taken.
For the life of George R. Lawrence, you can read more at vikipedia