Monday, April 23, 2007

Original Sources: Art and Archives at the CCP

In keeping with the history of photography from my last posting I thought I would write about a book that I found by chance in a stack of remainders. It is called Original Sources: Art and Archives at the Center for Creative Photography. It was published by the CCP in 2002. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Center it is a part of the University of Arizona in Tuscon and was started by Dr. John P. Schaefer and Ansel Adams in 1975. It serves as an exhibition space, has teaching programs and seminars and allows anyone access to its vast archive of photographic work and photographic ephemera by appointment.

The CCP became the repository for the archives of Garry Winogrand (30,000 prints, 30,500 color transparencies, contact sheets, negatives, personal papers, home movies) Edward Weston (2260 fine prints, negatives, manuscripts for “Daybooks”) Aaron Siskind (904 fine prints, correspondence with other photographers) W. Eugene Smith (3500 prints, writings, tape recordings of jazz, darkroom equipment) and many others.

Original Sources opens up the archive to the reader. Containing 55 short essays of individual photographers or genres of photography in alphabetical order, the book is illustrated with photos of the material as it appears as objects. The essays read a bit like encyclopedia entries and tend to cover well tred territory dealing mostly with the career arc of the photographers. What is refreshing, is that the edit includes many photographers that weren’t familiar to me.

Throughout the book, it is the objects reproduced that get the most attention and interest. We get to see reproductions of a letter from Beaumont Newhall to Edward Weston discussing the death of Alfred Steiglitz in July of 1946. A contact sheet (see small detail above) from a roll of film shot by Garry Winogrand at the El Morocco Club in NYC. A small notebook with photographs by Todd Webb made while he was serving in New Guinea during World War II. A 1954 architectural floorplan of Helen Gee’s Limelight Gallery. And many others.

What I also found interesting is that the last third of the book lists each photographer and details what the archive holds of their materials. After the descriptions for the larger holdings it also tells how many linear feet of shelf space that part of the archive takes up. Garry Winogrand 144 feet, Paul Strand 30.5 feet, Edward Weston 75 feet, W. Eugene Smith 300 feet.

This book can be found through the CCP (money going to a good cause) or buy it through Amazon. It is listed as starting at .95 cents. Apparently many book sellers think this book is taking up too many linear feet of shelf space.