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Photographs & Digital Images

In the early 1950s, Alan Lomax began to keep photographic journals of his field trips. Beginning with a few rolls taken in England and Scotland, he amassed many hundreds of photos on each of his subsequent major recording expeditions. Photography became for Lomax a serious vocation and the camera far more than an adjunct to the recording machine. He was fascinated with the landscape, architecture, and humanity of the places he visited, but his main intent was to document performers. His camera focused on singers, musicians, and dancers at peak moments of their performances, and while engaged in the activities their music accompanied. With a remarkable eye for character and composition, Lomax attempted to capture quintessential body attitudes, gestures, facial expressions, and social groupings, illuminating the stories told by his sound recordings. There are a total of about 5,000 photographs in these collections.


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Kansas 1944

A series shot in Pittsburg, Kansas, during that town's annual rodeo. Bull-riders, cowboys, an all-female string band, and spectators young and old, several of whom are in uniform - a view of Americans at play during wartime.




Scotland 1953-1957

Portraits of Scottish tinker and balladeer Jimmy MacBeath, probably shot in 1957 during a recording session in London, and a candid photo of folklorist and poet Hamish Henderson.




England 1953

While making recordings of English and Welsh folk song between 1951 and 1958, Alan Lomax took a small selection of photos of Harry Cox, the singers of the Blaxhall Ship Inn, and an unidentified tinker, perhaps Eddie Sanger.




Spain 1952-1953

In 1952 Alan Lomax acquired a used Leica and shot over seven hundred black and white photos to accompany his audio recordings in Spain. This Spanish collection represents Lomax's first serious attempt to put photography at the center of the documentation process. The collection portrays styles of traditional Spanish folk music and dance from Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Castile, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Mallorca, Ibiza, Formentera, Murcia, Navarro, the Pais Vasco, and Santander, with images of performers, instruments, dance styles, and traditional dress, and many in-depth portraits as well. Scenes of agriculture, domestic work, village marketplaces and streets, child-rearing and family life, townscapes and architecture, and regional customs reveal much about the "lost decades" in Spanish history, obliterated in the fear and silence of the Franco regime during the 1940s and '50s.




Italy 1954-1955

Over 1,300 black and white photographs illustrate Alan Lomax's six months' of field recording in Italy with Diego Carpitella in 1954 and 1955. His growing skill with the camera produced a collection of images evoking the musical culture of peasants, shepherds, fishermen, and artisans in over a hundred localities from Sicily to the Alps. They bear testimony to an era in Italian life and history that was both tragic and enormously fecund.




Southern U.S. 1959 and 1960

800 black and white photos and color slides represent Alan Lomax's 1959 and 1960 collecting trips in the Southern U.S., with images of Delta blues guitarists, fife-and-drum ensembles, Ozark and Appalachian ballad singers, Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and prison work gangs. Many of the iconic singers and musicians of the period - Fred McDowell, Almeda Riddle, Hobart Smith, Vera Hall, Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Texas Gladden, Ed and Lonnie Young, James Carter, and others - are represented in the collection, shown on their farms, porches, in their churches, and at hard labor.




Caribbean 1962

During his Caribbean fieldwork in 1962, Alan Lomax took photos and color slides to accompany his audio recordings. They focus on then living music and dance traditions of the Eastern Caribbean and Lesser Antilles: Trinidad, Grenada, Dominica, Carriacou, Guadaloupe, Nevis, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Anguilla. It includes images of schoolchildren singing and dancing at their games, stick fighting sequences and tug-o-war matches accompanied by drummers, chante-fable, or story-song performances, the Big Drum Dance of Carriacou, boat-pulling and sawing songs, Shango ceremonies, and powerful portraits of performers.




Newport Folk Festival 1966

Shots of Ed Young, Howlin' Wolf, and Son House taken in tandem with Lomax's filming of the proceedings at an ad hoc juke joint assembled for the '66 Newport Festival.




Dominican Republic 1967

Portraits of several unidentified performers Lomax met during his brief recording trip to the Dominican Republic.




Louisiana 1983 and 1985

Photos from Cajun Louisiana - Abbeville, Lafayette, and Mamou, among other locales - shot as Lomax and film crew produced footage of Cajuns at work and play for what would become the "Cajun Country" episode of the American Patchwork television series on PBS.




Miscellaneous Photographs

A few prints without provenance.