Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two cabinet photographs: Ariel Lowe Varges, famous photographer & correspondent, and his engineer father Adolph Charles Varges

Cabinet photograph of Ariel Lowe Varges, who was born 11 June 1890 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Adolph Charles Vargas (3rd image) and his wife Anna Katherine Wagner.   The identification on reverse is very faint, but it reads" "Ariel infant".

Ariel Lowe Varges became a famous still and video photographer of conflicts and hardship around the globe. Can't you just tell from his wide-eyed expression that he would grow up to be a curious fellow?

Here's a link to a newspaper article in the Miami News of August 18, 1929 in which Varges vividly recounts the strife for control of China in the late 1920s.   The article seems to be the same one that appeared in the North American Review, entitled "Under the Wall of Chochow".  

The Miami News article contains some of Varges' photographs and a couple of the photographer himself, in addition to a brief bio of Varges for the reader's benefit, a bit of a sensationalist one; in fact, the headlines throughout the article, not the author's own, seem equally sensationalist. 

Judge for yourself:  http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2206&dat=19290818&id=YVctAAAAIBAJ&sjid=VdgFAAAAIBAJ&pg=3683,6287263

At the beginning of the article, Varges recounts he is riding on a train with General Tsur's army when he hears a woman screaming.  Once General Tsur finds out that a soldier has attacked her, he condemns the soldier to death on the spot - beheading, by way of an implement that cuts straw - though he is allowed a cigarette, some Chinese wine and a chance to write a letter to his parents.   

Searching for Ariel L. Varges or A. L. Varges online will point you to some of his famous and unsettling images, in far-flung places such as China, Russia, Serbia and Iraq.   In the credits for one of the photographs, he is identified as Capt. Ariel Varges.  I haven't been able to find out if he served in the US military in World War I or after.  There's a record online of his World War II draft registration card.  

Ariel Lowe Varges died in Norwich, Connecticut in 1972.  His Connecticut death record notes that he was married; his widow's name was shown as Jess; other sources show her as Jessica.  Her maiden name is unknown to me as yet.  She was born in 1896 and died in Plainfield, Connecticut in 1989.  I found a New York passenger record showing her name as Varges in 1948 when she and Ariel sailed together from Bermuda to New York.

Ariel Lowe Varges' father, shown above, was Adolph Charles Varges, born April 1858 in Chicago, the son of Charles and Emiline (Bertram) Varges.  I found references online indicating that he was an engineer at the Horace Greeley School, Chicago.  Adolph's father, born in Germany about 1835, served in the US Civil War.  Unfortunately, the hand writing identification on the reverse of the photograph is very faint; it reads: "Adolph Varges, Ariel's Father".

I haven't been able to find anything about the parents of Adolph Charles Varges' wife, Anna Katherine Wagner, or his mother Emeline Bartram.
Hopefully these two photographs will have some meaning for you.  If you have any insights into the Varges, Wagner or Bartram families, I would most appreciate hearing from you! 

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Fascinating blog. I love the concept behind what you're doing!

    I stumbled on this entry looking up info for Ariel L. Varges, who provided a series of photographs for the Young Companion (Liangyou) pictorial magazine in Shanghai of famous Chinese starlets of the time, with their dogs. I was just wondering what he was doing there and why *he* was the one photographing Chinese stars with their dogs... how those photographs circulated at the time, if not in pictorial spreads.

  2. Thanks for your kind words! Ariel Varges must have been a photographer and person whom people felt comfortable around, and one job led to another. Imagine - from executions to starlets' dogs. If you're working on an article or book that has him in it, perhaps you would send a link when you're done?

  3. It's not much of an article, but I finally posted something here:


    I'm more interested in dogs and the general circulation of images in 1920s~40s Shanghai and China, but definitely with attention to the human actors that were involved in the processes.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful blog.

  4. Hopefully someone with knowledge of early 20th century Chinese film and theater will happen upon this post about Ariel Varges and be able to answer the question: Would the dogs shown in Liang You (良友), the Young Companion, 1926, no. 7, p. 15, reproduced in your blog post, likely have been the starlets' own pets - or simply props?

  5. from what I was told Ariel was a photographer for the Dept of Interior pre ww2. He was in France prior to Hitler taking over (I have a Letter from him to my GR.Aunt Eileen. He would send ming ducks and stautes to my GrAuntfrom china, they were in love for many years although my GrAunt could never remarry as a divorced Catholic . They stayed great friends throughout the years,until he married and moved with his wife and dogs to Conn.I have some of his photos' (Him and his mother ) Him in Egypt, a post card picture he took in Japan, a photo of the actor Richard Rainer who was a good friend to my grandfather ,pictures of my grgrgrandmother done by Ariel as well.( I actually think he was a spy for our government)

  6. What an interesting life he led! If you would be willing to share some of the photographs, I'll add them to this post for the benefit of others who might happen by. heirlooms.reunited@gmail.com
    Thanks for commenting.