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Guide to the Katja B. Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt Collection of Photographs
1900-2002
 PR 305

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Brynn White, June, 2014. Revised by Marybeth Kavanagh, 2019.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 11, 2019 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

Jill Freedman

Jill Freedman (1939) is a New York-based documentary photographer best known for her images of New York City street life. Two major projects (which were later published as books) involved documenting New York City firefighters and police officers. Freedman embedded herself in fire stations, and then in precinct houses, to capture these civil servants in their work with the public and behind the scenes. Freedman's work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the International Center for Photography, and the Smithsonian, among others.

Friedman-Abeles Studio

Photographers Joseph Abeles (1908-1991) and Leo Friedman (1919-2011) began their partnership in 1954, with a studio located at 351 West 54th Street in Manhattan. They specialized in documenting stage sets and productions and producing theatrical portraits. Abeles did the portraits at the studio, and Friedman worked in the theaters (usually at dress rehearsals or out-of-town openings), capturing the stage show from the point of view of the audience. Together, they created a photographic record of Broadway shows and the New York theatre world. Their partnership ended acrimoniously around 1970.

Philippe Halsman

Philippe Halsman (1906-1979) was born in Riga, Latvia and began his photographic career in Paris. In 1940, fleeing the Nazis, Halsman arrived in the United States. Halsman's career over the next 30 years centered on reportage and cover shoots for many major American magazines, including 101 covers for LIFE magazine. These assignments put him in contact with many of the century's leading statesmen, scientists, artists and entertainers. Halsman maintained a thirty-seven year collaboration with Salvador Dali, which resulted in a stream of unusual "photographs of ideas," including "Dali Atomicus" and the "Dali's Mustache" series. In the early 1950s, Halsman began to ask his subjects to jump for his camera at the conclusion of each sitting. These energetic images are an important part of his photographic legacy.

Fred McDarrah

Fred William McDarrah (1926-2007) was an American photographer best known for his work for The Village Voice. He made his name documenting the cultural phenomenon known as the Beat Generation from its inception in the 1950s. McDarrah also documented the New York art world during the late 1950s. Many of his subjects, often little known when McDarrah shot them, became cultural icons, including Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, and Allen Ginsberg.

Born in Brooklyn, McDarrah bought his first camera at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. After leaving Boys High School, he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper during World War II. He earned a Journalism degree from New York University on the G.I. Bill. He began to photograph the artists, writers, musicians, and actors who frequented the bars and coffee houses, art galleries and cafes in Greenwich Village because he wanted to document what he called, "The most colorful community of interesting people, fascinating places, and dynamic ideas." When an acquaintance told McDarrah he was starting a newspaper, to be called The Village Voice, McDarrah signed on. He was for decades the paper's only staff photographer and its first picture editor. In addition to covering Greenwich Village arts and culture scene, McDarrah also documented off-Broadway theater, demonstrations including the Women's Rights, Gay Rights, Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War marches, the first Earth Day, and experimental theater. He was associated with The Village Voice for 50 years.

Ken Regan and Camera 5

Photojournalist Ken Regan (d. 2012) worked for over five decades prolifically documenting pop culture, sports, foreign conflicts, and other current events. Credited with over 200 magazine covers, Regan was most well-known for a discretion and professionalism which earned him intimate shooting access to famous politicians, musicians, and other celebrities.

Born in the Bronx, Regan received a camera for his 12th birthday and began shooting sports and musical events as the Mount Saint Michael Academy school photographer. He studied journalism at Columbia and attended New York University Film School. His first paid assignment, from the New York Times Sunday Magazine, was to cover the famous Thanksgiving rock concert at the Fillmore East featuring Jefferson Airplane and Johnny Winter; his work ultimately resulted in a three-page spread. Regan sent self-made prints of his work along with a thank you note to the concert promoter Bill Graham. This unusual practice, which he continued throughout his career, inaugurated a symbiotic relationship with Graham, who later established Regan as house photographer to The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

Regan also covered major sports events for magazines such as Time,  Sports Illustrated,  Life, and  Newsweek. In the 1970s he founded Camera 5, an agency of 15 photographers who covered wars, riots and demonstrations, and other national and international hard news and human interest stories.

In addition, Regan served as the self-proclaimed "unofficial Kennedy family photographer" for thirty years, amassing one of the largest bodies of photographs of the political dynasty in both public and private settings.

Regan's work continually appeared in a wide range of major publications including Vanity Fair,  Rolling Stone, and  People, who often called upon Regan to capture unguarded moments from camera weary celebrities. Regan additionally published  Knockout: The Art of Boxing in 2007.

Of his photography goals, Regan said "I think that if you're able to capture an image that nobody else has then that's what makes the image important; that's what people are interested in." Regan developed continuing working relationships with directors Jonathan Demme and Clint Eastwood, among others, for whom he shot on-set production photography. Regan died on November 25, 2012.

Martha Swope and Swope Associates

Martha Swope (1928-2017), founder of Swope Associates, was a former dancer who began her photographic career in the 1950s as a freelance photographer specializing in dance and theater. Swope took thousands of photos of the original casts of shows, shooting theatrical productions and the rehearsal process for publicity and documentary purposes.

Born February 22, 1928 in Texas, Swope studied dance at City Ballet's training affiliate, the School of American Ballet, while pursuing photography on the side. She met Jerome Robbins while he was taking class to prepare for West Side Story. Robbins invited Swope to photograph rehearsals for West Side Story, and when one of her images was published in LIFE magazine, Swope began her career in photography.

She was the official photographer for the New York City Ballet and other dance troupes. She chronicled the working lives of George Balanchine, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, and other icons of 20th-century dance. She was also a photographer for the theater industry, documenting more than 800 stage productions. Swope won a Tony Honor for Excellence in 2004, and a lifetime achievement award from the League of Professional Theatre Women in 2007.

Vandamm Studio

Florence Vandamm (1883-1966) was one of the most prolific and widely published female commercial photographers of the early 20th century. Founder of Vandamm Studio (in operation in New York from 1924 to 1964), Vandamm has been credited as the inventor of the modern-day head shot and noted for her use of lighting, costume and movement. The studio was run by Florence Vandamm and her husband George R. Thomas, and their photographs capture the New York theater world from 1923-1950.

Florence Vandamm was born in England in 1883 and studied to be a painter of portraits and miniatures. She learned photography only as a complement to her other art, but it soon became her focus. In 1908, at the age of 25, she opened her first portrait photography studio in London. In 1917, she married an American man, George R. Thomas, and they opened a studio specializing in fashion photography. In 1923, they moved to New York City and opened Vandamm Studio on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Florence focused on taking the portraits and publicity shots in the couple's studio on West 57th Street, while Thomas took full-stage production shots. When her husband died in 1944, Vandamm took over production shots as well as portraits. She retired in 1950, leaving the studio to her associates, having created an important visual record of American theater.