John Vachon: A Certain Look

He was a consummate professional whose photographs spanned the years from the Great Depression to the death of the great picture magazines. He traveled many thousands of miles but never really left the American heartland.
Read more »

The Day Kennedy Was Shot

A routine chore for JFK’s official photographer became the most important assignment of his career. Much of his moving pictorial record appears here for the first time.

It was a typical motorcade. Cecil W. Stoughton had been in many like it. A forty-three-year-old veteran of the Signal Corps, Captain Stoughton had so impressed John F. Kennedy with pictures of his inauguration that the new President, through his military aide, appointed him his official photographer. In the course of thirty-four months, Stoughton had made more than eight thousand photographs of Kennedy and his family.Read more »

Windows On Another Time

A man who has spent his life helping transform old photos from agreeable curiosities into a vital historical tool explains their magical power to bring the past into the present

“Do you know anything about that wonderful invention of the day, called the Daguerreotype?...Think of a man sitting down in the sun and leaving his facsimile in all its full completion of outline and shadow, steadfast on a plate, at the end of a minute and a half!...It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases—but the association and the sense of nearness...the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever!Read more »

Landscapes Of Power

Charles Sheeler found his subject in the architecture of industry. To him, America’s factories were the cathedrals of the modern age.

In the fall of 1927 the Philadelphia advertising agency N. W. Ayer and Son came up with a campaign for the Ford Motor Company: a series of photographs of Ford’s thousand-acre industrial site on the Rouge River near Detroit, which would portray the company itself as an efficient machine, an icon of American industry. Ayer had a photographer in mind: a Philadelphian named Charles Sheeler. Read more »

The Unknown Photographer

During the Depression, itinerant photographers hawked their services from town to town. All we know about this one is that he passed through Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1934. And that he was very good indeed.

Only one man in town today remembers him, even vaguely, although he took 560 pictures of Corpus Christi businesses and the people in them during the month of February, 1934. He kept no receipt book, and didn’t put the usual commercial stamp on any of his prints. In spite of a diligent search, which has been successful in identifying most of his subjects, no hint has come to light of who the photographer was. Read more »

FDR The Last Photo

A picture taken the day before President Roosevelt’s death has been hidden away in an artist’s file until now

Commissioned to paint Franklin Roosevelt, Elizabeth Shoumatoff arrived in Warm Springs, Georgia, in early April, 1945. Before starting her day’s work on April 11, she asked an assistant, Nicholas Robbins, to snap a few pictures of the President.

One of these, the last taken, is a haunting document of Roosevelt’s final hours. Never published before, it is shown on the opposite page. Mrs. Shoumatoff, who died in 1980, left a memoir of this photo session and the fateful day that followed:

Finding A Lost World

A newly discovered record of a proud Southern society that few people ever thought existed

In 1920, when Richard Samuel Roberts’s name first appeared in the Columbia, South Carolina, city directory—in the “Colored Dept.“—he was listed as a janitor in the post office. He continued in that job, the kind of job a black was expected to have in his strictly segregated city, even after he had established an ambitious photography business in the black community. Self-taught, he learned his craft by studying brochures and catalogs sent by supply houses.Read more »

House Hunting In Licking County

A set of turn-of-the-century glass-plate negatives bought at an auction prompted a New York photographer to set off for central Ohio to document architectural and social change


There is something irresistible about before-and-after photographs, whether they document change that has occurred imperceptibly over many years or, as sometimes happens in fashion magazines, the transformation of a se afternoon. When the New York photographer Karen Maloof acquired a crate of about 170 glass-plate negatives in 1981 from a friend who had bought them at an Ohio auction, the box was marked “McCahon Studio, Newark, O.,” but the images themselves bore no identification whatever.Read more »

Boosting The West

The Wyoming photographer Joseph Stimson proudly portrayed his region in the years when it was emerging from rude frontier beginnings

In a career lasting almost sixty years, Joseph Stimson promoted Wyoming and other Western states in strong and spirited photographs. He was not the West’s first photographer, nor its most artistic, but his work perfectly expressed the optimism and belief in progress of this area in the early twentieth century. Read more »

Made In Philadelphia

Artfully composed still-life photographs from a rare 1871 album transform brushes, sponges, and stationery supplies into symbols of a proud, industrial society

Five years before the 1876 Centennial Exposition celebrated the nation’s confidence in its technological prowess with towering displays of manufactured goods, a group of Philadelphia photographers, lithographers, and printers produced an elegant, leather-bound album paying tribute to local industry. They called it Gallery of Arts and Manufacturers of Philadelphia , and they pasted in fifty-eight black-and-white photographs, each mounted in a lithographed frame on its own gilt-edged page.Read more »