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Guide to the Jane Hoffer Photographs
 PR 312

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Sophie Glidden-Lyon and Joseph Ditta

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 18, 2019
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

The photographs in this collection stem from three distinct documentation projects by Jane Hoffer: "On the Beat 1975–1979"; "Boys' Choir of Harlem 1980–1985"; and "Celebrity, circa 1983–2010."

"On the Beat 1975–1979" documents some of the first women police officers out on patrol in New York City. President Lyndon Johnson's Crime Commission in 1967 recommended sweeping changes to law enforcement training and hiring practices and called for "new kinds of people" in police forces: college graduates, women, minorities, and skilled civilians. More and more women became patrol officers and moved into supervisory positions like station supervisor and detective. Further studies, like the Kerner Commission's 1968 "Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders," and psychologist and Ford Foundation director Catherine Miller's 1972 study, "Women in Policing," contributed to the changing attitude toward women stepping out from behind the desk to take on more active policing duties. Policewomen faced fierce resistance from people outside their departments, as well as resentment from their fellow officers.

Hoffer began the project in the 1970s. She was then teaching photography at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the photography collective to which she belonged, Women Photographers of New York, began a series of projects on working women. A colleague introduced her to Sergeant Joan Pearson, who then acquainted her with other female officers who were willing to be interviewed and photographed. Fascinated by the emerging roles of women in police work, Hoffer photographed officers, sergeants, and auxiliaries in precinct houses, their patrol cars, and at the firing range. She also conducted extensive interviews of her subjects. The process continued for four years.

The photographs were exhibited at the SoHo Photo Gallery (1980), the Wall Gallery at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (1989), and the New York City Police Museum (2011), where the exhibit was called "On the Beat 1975–1979: Women in the NYPD." The work was also issued as a self-published photobook, On the Beat 1975–1979, which contains selections from the interviews as well as photographs.

An impromptu request to shoot a Boys' Choir of Harlem concert led to Hoffer's first professional job: photographing the choir at venues around New York City (Carnegie Hall, City College, Gracie Mansion, and Liberty Island), throughout the United States, and on a trip to Jamaica. Hoffer also accompanied the choir to its summer camp in Kent, Connecticut, where she captured the singers rehearsing, studying, fishing, and swimming. In 2011 Hoffer issued her images in a self-published photobook, The Boys' Choir of Harlem 1980–1985. The Boys' Choir of Harlem was founded in 1968 by Dr. Walter Turnbull (1944–2007). The group folded shortly after its final performance in 2007.

The photographs in Jane Hoffer's self-published Celebrity were taken between about 1983 and 2010 at New York City locations such as the Apollo Theater, Columbia University, the New York Academy of Science, Hunter College, Radio City Music Hall, and the City College of New York. Hoffer's subjects include activists, artists, authors, photographers, businessmen, philanthropists, scientists, educators, journalists, performers, actors, dancers, directors, musicians, political figures, and religious leaders, all of whom are identified in the container list, below (Series III, Box 1, Folder 29).


The collection is divided in three series:

Series I. "On the Beat," 1975-1979, 2011-2012
Series II. "Boys' Choir of Harlem," 1980-1985, 2011
Series III. "Celebrity," circa 1983-2010

Only Series I includes photographic prints.