Another Carl Anderson Instrument

Additional research has revealed that Carl C. Anderson was active in San Francisco from at least 1893 until 1911. He listed himself in the SF directories as a "musical instrument manufacturer." He seems to have fairly peripatetic, having changed business addresses almost every year. In 1905 (before the earthquake and fire) he listed his address as 106 Golden Gate Ave, in 1907 (after the earthquake and fire) he was at 1205-1/2 Golden Gate Ave, and in 1911 at 804 Polk St. He seems to have worked out of his home because the maps of that period show those addresses as residences.

Keith Duncan of Portland recently found a Carl Anderson "parlor" guitar in a Goodwill in Portland with a hand written label dated 1893. This is the earliest Anderson guitar on record so far.

This small bodied guitar is in good condition for being almost 120 years old, with only a couple of small repairs visible in the photos. The Martin-style bridge looks to be a replacement, based on the marks around it on the top.

Photos courtesy of and copyright by Keith Duncan.


Posted by Charles under Acoustic GuitarsMiscellaneous on 06/20

Carl C. Anderson - San Francisco Luthier

Shooting the Anderson mandolin for Steve Baughman led me to begin researching to learn more about the man and his instruments. A visit to Frank Ford's "museum" revealed two more instruments made by Anderson, another, very similar mandolin made after the earthquake and fire in 1907, and a guitar with an unusual cutaway dated "1902/03."

Some further research found a "hollow arm" guitar (a predecessor to modern harp guitars), made by Anderson in 1895, but the only evidence of this instruments are some low-resolution pictures from an eBay auction.

The label in the hollow arm guitar lists Anderson's business address as "503 Post St." which is at the corner of Post and Mason.

Over the next few months, I will be looking further into Anderson's history and hope to bring more details to light about an early San Francisco luthier at the turn of the last century.

Posted by Charles under Acoustic GuitarsOther Stringed Instruments on 05/27

More National New Yorker

I have added three new pictures to the National New Yorker gallery. This time I shot the guitar on a sheet of shiny black acrylic plastic for a mirror effect. I've been using this technique on several projects lately and especially like the effect here of black and white reflected in black.

The lighting was as usual, two softboxes left and right of the set and a strobe with a 10deg honeycomb grid overhead for accent lighting. Each strobe had to be placed carefully to ensure that there were no uncontrolled reflections. The real challenge in shooting shiny objects on a shiny background is to control each and every reflection so it shows only what you want. I routinely drape the set with black curtains to make sure nothing in the room is illuminated, or reflected.

I am still intrigued by the shapes and textures of this unique instrument and plan to continue my visual exploration of it. Look for more additions to this gallery in the near future.

Posted by Charles under Electric Guitars on 02/01

Acoustic Guitar Magazine

Two pictures I took of Tony Yamamoto's Multi-Scale 7- and 12-string guitars were used in an article about Tony in the July issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine. You can read the article online here. Due to an error at their end, I wasn't credited for the photos in the print version.

Posted by Charles under Acoustic Guitars on 05/19

Shooting the National New Yorker

When David M. Seigler first showed me his National New Yorker lap steel guitar, I was intrigued by its distinctive, art deco appearance. It is finished in glossy black enamel on the sides and back with black plastic fret board. The trim is white plastic and with the round-shouldered shape gives the guitar a very 20’s feel.

The guitar, introduced as the Electric Hawaiian in 1937, was in production until 1968 in many model variations. This example has engraved position markers and a 3-position pickup selector marked “Hawaiian,” “Chimes,” and “Harp.”

I wanted to try to capture the art-deco design of this instrument and to emphasize the architectural influences on the shape.

The “catalog” picture of the guitar in front of a gray background shows the overall shape and motif quite well, and gives a good idea of the scale of the instrument.

National New Yorker lap steel guitar

As always, I try to find details that illuminate the whole, and in the case of this guitar, the roman numeral position markers engraved into the fretboard, held captive behind the bars of the strings, gives a glimpse of the nature of the guitar.

National New Yorker lap steel guitar

I think the most interesting picture from the session is this one, shot on a black velvet background. Since the guitar body is black, it disappears into the background, leaving only the front of the guitar floating in space.

National New Yorker lap steel guitar

All of these were lit with two strobes in softboxes, one on each side, and a strobe with a 10 deg grid on a boom overhead for accent light. Reflection control is always an issue with instruments with shiny parts, and the New Yorker is no exception. The hand rest over the bridge is bright shiny chrome and required special attention in every shot to ensure that there was nothing unwanted reflected there.

National New Yorker lap steel guitar

Posted by Charles under Electric Guitars on 04/07


Welcome to Guitar Photography by Charles L Webster.

I offer fine art, advertising, and catalog photography of guitars and other stringed instruments.

I will use this blog to discuss my photography and show some of the tools and techniques I use in my work. This will be a continuation of the articles on my blog at

I became intrigued by the visual aspects of guitars a few years ago when my friend Mike Simpson brought a particularly beautiful guitar into our office one day. The guitar was made of wood that had a striking grain pattern in deep reds and oranges. When I asked what kind of wood it was, Mike told me it was cocobolo, a hardwood from Central America. I was immediately attracted to the possibilities presented by its rich and varied colors.

As I learned more about guitars and the materials used to make them, I realized that there was a wealth of visual detail in each instrument. Previously all guitars fell into two categories: acoustic or electric. As I explored, I realized that there is an enormous variety of shape, size, color, texture, finish, and detail in guitars, and in stringed instruments in general.

I began my photographic journey with a small bowl-back mandolin that looks much better than it sounds. It has many of the features of larger, more sophisticated instruments; inlay, highly detailed woodwork, a variety of different woods, and more. You can see this instrument in the Ventura Mandolin gallery here on my site.

I have photographed a wide variety of instruments from many countries, ranging from Alan Perlman’s rare and unusual Kora from Gambia in West Africa to Ben Lewry’s beautiful Dram-yan from Tibet. Each instrument presents a different set of challenges to me. Some are small, some large, some shiny and curved, some illuminated from within; each is unique in its detail and construction. The everlasting challenge to me is to capture the unique visual character in a way that reveals something of the “soul” of the instrument.

Posted by Charles under Miscellaneous on 04/03

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