Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: photography

Edith Lee-Payne: Accidental civil rights icon

This post comes to us from summer intern Hannah Fenster.

When Edith Lee-Payne stepped into the lobby of the National Archives last week, she came from a morning full of press interviews and national monument visits.

But the whirlwind of her recent rise to fame slowed when she entered the Rotunda to view a photograph of her 12-year-old self. Her hand rested on her heart as she bent over the glass case containing the original image.

On August 28, 1963, Lee-Payne attended the March on Washington, where photographer Rowland Scherman snapped her picture without her knowledge. While Lee-Payne went on to face constant struggles against still-prevalent racial discrimination, her image lived a life of its own, growing into an iconic symbol of the historic day.

Discovering herself in the photograph this year has allowed Lee-Payne the opportunity to harmonize her actual life with her archived existence as a symbol of a national movement.

She feels like the photo—and her recent fame—has afforded her new responsibility. “It gives me an opportunity to share with others what Dr. King shared with this country,” she said.

Just as she became a picture for the March on Washington, Lee-Payne says, “The March in 1963 was a picture of America. People from all walks of life came together for King’s message.” Her favorite quote comes from Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter … [ Read all ]

Documerica: Seeing the Seventies More Clearly

Today’s blog post comes from Hannah Fenster, summer intern with the Public Affairs Office.

Ever wonder why your photographs of the 1970s are slowly changing color? Hint: They don’t want makeovers or need more fuchsia in their lives. More likely, their aging appearances come from the original film type and from years of storage at room temperature.

The National Archives used an elaborate process to produce top-quality, fully restored photographs for the exhibit “DOCUMERICA: Searching for the Seventies,” which runs through September 8. The National Archives stores the original images as slides in cold storage to minimize the color shift.

I spoke with Michelle Farnsworth, digital imaging technician at the National Archives, to discuss the process of resurrecting the photos for exhibition.

To transfer the images from stored slides to shiny exhibit frames, technicians began by scanning the slides into a digitized format at the Digital Imaging Lab at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

The scanned versions underwent some preliminary color editing. “We weren’t trying to make them look punchier,” says Farnsworth, “we were trying to make them neutral, to match what we saw on the slides or the documents.”

Amanda Perez, exhibit and graphic designer, then enhanced the color and contrast, cleaned up dust spots and scratches, and further neutralized what color shifts had occurred over the years. Editing to this extent … [ Read all ]

Jack Corn, DOCUMERICA Photographer

Jack Corn, a retired photojournalist and professor, came to visit the “Searching for the Seventies” exhibit here at the National Archives, bringing along his family and one of his former students. Why? He was one of the 70 photographers commissioned by the EPA to take photos for the DOCUMERICA project. (His photos from the assignment are available on our Online Public Access research site, as well as in this Flickr set.) I was lucky enough to interview him and his student, D.C. photojournalist Scott Robinson, over the phone.

Starting in 1961, Jack made a point of visiting the Appalachian Mountains to take photographs. He went at least once a year, focusing specifically on one town. As such, he was perfectly prepared to photograph the area for DOCUMERICA.

At the time he went on assignment for the EPA, Jack was working at The Tennessean, based in Nashville. He was on an extended break so that he could focus on photography outside the confines of the newspaper office. “I think I even took a week of vacation time,” he added.

The DOCUMERICA assignment was different from others because he didn’t have a reporter with him. “It made it harder, because reporters take notes and ask questions for you.” Further, his subjects were sometimes “suspicious” of the work he was doing. “They understand when you say … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Portrait of the Artist with a Mustache

This self portrait, with carefully groomed mustache in the center, is a glamorous photo of a hardworking, groundbreaking photographer. James Stephen “Steve” Wright was from a working-class family in Washington, DC. By the 1940s he was head of photographic operations for the Federal Works Agency.

But like many young black men at the time, he began at the very bottom of the career ladder, working at the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (FEAPW) as a messenger and chauffeur. However, unlike other young black men at time, Wright worked for FEAPW Administrator Harold Ickes, who fought battles over segregation and discrimination, and who hired like-minded people into his agency. Wright moved on to assembling newspaper clippings and eventually was recruited by the FEAPW photographic head Hyman Greenberg.

In an interview with Nicholas Natason, Wright recalled that “In those days, it was tough for a black man even to become a file clerk in the government . . . You had to mind your P’s and Q’s, because there were lower-level whites who resented the fact that you were doing photography at all and were waiting for you to stumble.”

But Wright was extremely good at his job; he was efficient, diplomatic and organized. As the New Deal picture units began to consolidate in the Federal Works Agency (FWA) photographic section, he traveled the country taking … [ Read all ]

Say cheese, Mr. President: White House photographers at the Truman Library

Only 43 men in the history of the United States have held the title of President.

That’s a fairly small group , smaller than your average NFL team. But smaller still is the group of professionals who have held the title as the President’s chief photographer. To date, only nine men have served as the official White House Photographer.

President John F. Kennedy first appointed photographer Cecil Stoughton in 1960 in the role of White House Photographer. In the nearly 50 years following that first appointment, Presidential photographers have served as visual historians of the President’s daily life.

These photographers captured rare glimpses inside the White House and the historic moments of the Presidents they served. In addition to iconic images that enter the public’s memory of the President, private moments are captured as well.

On October 21, 2011, the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO, is excited to share the works of these photographers with  the exhibition “The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office.”

The exhibit displays images from the 1960s, when the first Presidential photographer was hired, to today’s unprecedented coverage of Barack Obama. The National Geographic exhibition features works by veteran presidential photographers including David Hume (who photographed Gerald Ford), David Valdez (George H.W. Bush), Bob McNeely (Bill Clinton), and Eric Draper (George W. Bush).

This tradition continues today as the 44th President’s chief … [ Read all ]