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Guide to the United Automobile Workers of America, District 65 Negatives PHOTOS.023

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY, 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive

Collection processed by Erika Gottfried, Mary Allison Farley, Katie Kirwan, Miriam Frank, Penny Kalloo, Tim Donohue, Tylea Richard, Krista Hahn, Sarah Demott, 1979-1985; 1989-1991; 2008-2011. Revised by Erika Gottfried to reflect addition of materials, May 2014.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 23, 2015
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Heather Mulliner to reflect updated administrative information  , Sep 2014

Scope and Contents note

The Collection consists of nearly 30,000 black and white negatives spanning the late 1930s through the early 1960s, with the bulk from the 1940s and 1950s. Besides documenting the life and times of the union itself, these images provide especially strong documentation for left and liberal causes of the 1940s-1960s, including civil rights, rank and file participation in union activities, and working class leisure and recreational activities. Also included are images of prominent left-wing and liberal politicians, entertainers, and celebrities, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Vito Marcantonio, and Henry Wallace. What particularly distinguishes these photographs from most collections of labor union images—which are largely limited to formal shots of the leadership and its activities—is that the Collection documents the everyday organizational life of District 65 and that of its diverse membership(including men and women of Jewish, African-American, Irish and Hispanic descent), as well as its leaders. Still more unusual, and probably unique among photographs shot for labor unions, the images were shot by District 65's own Camera Club, which functioned as staff photographers for the union's biweekly newspaper. Because these volunteer photographers were themselves members of District 65, shooting from the inside of the organization, they were able to capture more relaxed, intimate views of fellow members than the images shot by the commercial contract photographers usually engaged by other unions.

In the process of recording the organizational occupational, recreational, and political activities, and (occasionally) the home lives of its members and leaders, District 65’s photographers also captured a wealth of valuable historical and social information. Warehouses, offices, factories; the storefronts, facades, and interiors of dozens of department stores (the union’s members worked in dozens of now-vanished department stores that were then ubiquitous in cities large and small throughout of the U.S.), marquees and interiors of hotels, auditoria, nightclubs, and other public spaces; young working people at parties and dances and engaged in amateur team sports, retired workers, workers’ homes and workplaces, streetscapes of New York City, and unguarded social interactions of working people are only some of the examples of the types of visual data that can be discerned from these images. In many cases the “unintentional” documentation that is contained in these images may as valuable as the documentation they hold of the events they were meant to record.

A great strength of the Collection is that caption information and/or dates are available for almost all of its images. Moreover, at least one of the photographs shot of each event or person was usually published in the union’s newspaper, which means that in nearly every instance it is possible to learn more (sometimes much more) about an image(s) of a given event or person, as well as its wider context, than what is available in its caption alone, simply by consulting the story in which it was published.

The basic unit of the Collection is the "shoot"--a group of negatives or a single negative shot by one or more photographers of one event that usually, but not always, takes place on the same day. Series II and III are comprised of 5,200 images made into interpositives and duplicate negatives made from original negatives selected from the Collection for archival preservation. These are arranged in negative number order.

Series I, Negatives , comprises all the original negatives and represents a complete list of the shoots in the collection, arranged into ten subject subseries. Within each subseries these shoots are grouped into by event, organization, or person into individual entries, and the entries are arranged alphabetically by the first word of the title(s) assigned to them. Each entry includes a negative number (or series of negative numbers), a title comprised of a shoot description(s) drawn the original caption information, and a date(s), if known. The dates given are not necessarily the actual dates an event took place; they represent the day that a photographer was assigned to cover an event, although the two dates often coincided and photography assignments were rarely given out more than one or two days before an event was photographed. When its subject content falls into more than one category the same individual negative or shoot may appear under more than one subject subseries.

Series II, Interpositives , consists of 5,200 preservation copies created from the original negatives in Series I.

Series III, Duplicate Negatives , consists of 5,200 duplicate negatives produced for printing purposes from the 5,200 preservation copies in Series II.

Arrangement

Organized in three series: I: Negatives 1938 - 1968; II: Interpositives; III: Duplicate Negatives.