Born in Germany to a family of scholars, Genthe (1869-
1942) moved to the United States in 1895 to work as a tutor.
On his days off, he walked the streets of Chinatown in San
Francisco, where he began to photograph. After publishing
some of these images in local magazines, Genthe decided
to open his own studio, specialising in portraits of prominent
locals and visiting celebrities. Genthe's work and studio were
destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and resulting
fire--save for the Chinatown images that had been stored in
a bank vault. He published those early images in the 1909
book Pictures of Old Chinatown.
After the fire, Genthe re-established his studio in San
Francisco and in 1908 spent six months photographing in
Japan, resulting in many poetic pictorialist images. Genthe
was very interested in Japanese and Chinese art and was an
avid collector of Ukyo-e prints.
In 1911 he moved to New York, where he continued to work
as a successful portrait and pioneering dance photographer.
With New York as his new home base, Genthe kept traveling
around the globe, until his death in 1942.