Charles F. Bretzman (July 26, 1867 – January 19, 1934) founded the Bretzman Photo Company, also called the Bretzman Studio, in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the turn of the twentieth century and was a noted portrait and commercial photographer in the city for more than thirty years. In addition to operating his own photography studio, Bretzman worked for a few years as a staff photographer for three of Indianapolis’s daily newspapers and became the first official photographer of the Indianapolis 500-mile automobile race. Bretzman’s photographs documented Indianapolis’s people, places, and events in the early decades of the twentieth century. His work includes portraits of notable individuals, such as Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley and Carl G. Fisher, a founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as photographs of the first Indianapolis 500 race in 1911 and other major events in the city’s history.
The German-born photographer came to the United States in 1885 and traveled across the country for a few years before settling in Indianapolis in 1900 and establishing a photography studio on South Illinois Street. In 1914 he expanded his business to larger quarters on the top floor of the Fletcher Savings and Trust Building. Bretzman’s son, C. Noble, and grandson, Erich, also became professional photographers in the family business. The Bretzman Photo Company closed after nearly eighty years in operation when Noble retired from full-time photography in 1976. Bretzman Photo Company photographs are in the collections of the Indiana Historical Society and the Library of Congress, among others.