Location: 2 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island
Alice Austen was introduced to photography when she was 10 years old by her Uncle Oswald, who brought home an early-model dry plate camera from one of his many trips abroad. Alice showed immediate and natural ability.
Through experimentation she taught herself how to operate the complex camera mechanism, judge exposure, develop the heavy glass plates, and make prints. By the time she was 18 in 1884, she was not only technically skilled but artistically accomplished as well.
Alice Austen was one of the first women photographers in this country to work outside the confines of a studio. She was also a realistic documentary photographer - a style of photography unusual until the 20th century. With a natural instinct for photojournalism some forty years before that word was coined, she saw the world with a clear eye and photographed the people and places in it, as they actually appeared, giving US a visual record of more than fifty years of social history.
Alice Austen‘s work is significant because of its high quality, its range, and its level of expression that together form a beautiful visual window on 19th century America.
Clear Comfort (a.k.a. The Alice Austen House) was built in 1690. In 1844 it was purchased by John Haggerty Austen, Alice Austen‘s grandfather. Alice Austen herself moved there as a young girl in the late1860‘s with her mother, Alice Cornell Austen, after the two were abandoned by Alice‘s father. She went on to spend most of her life there, until financial problems and illness forced her to move in 1945. In her absence, the house fell into disrepair until a group of concerned citizens saved it from demolition in the 1960‘s. The house successfully gained status as a historic landmark, and was restored in the mid 1980‘s. It currently serves as a museum of Alice Austen‘s life and times.