The Amon Carter houses over 40,000 photographic prints, making the museum one of the country’s major repositories of American photography. The holdings span the history of the photographic medium, from one of the earliest daguerreotypes made in this country to inkjet prints being made today.
Among the earliest works in the collection is a calotype of Ojibway Indian Peter Jones, made by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson in about 1845. Equally rare is the Amon Carter’s series of daguerreotypes documenting the United States’ war with Mexico in 1846–48. The later nineteenth-century photographs in the collection include Alexander Gardner’s sketchbook of the Civil War and several hundred landscapes by expeditionary photographers such as John K. Hillers, William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, A.J. Russell, and Carleton E. Watkins. Also represented are works by Mathew Brady, William Stillman, and the great daguerreotypists Albert Southworth and Josiah Hawes.
The Amon Carter is also a repository for works by twentieth-century photographers such as Ansel Adams, Carlotta Corpron, Roy DeCarava, Robert Frank, Laura Gilpin, Lewis Wickes Hine, Barbara Morgan, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Willard Van Dyke, Edward Weston, and Minor White. A particular strength of the collection is early twentieth-century pictorial photography, including work by Gertrude Kasebier, Clara Sipprell, Karl Struss, and Clarence White. More than 500 portraits and New York scenes by Berenice Abbott–along with numerous Farm Security Administration photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post Wolcott–are housed in the collection as well. In addition, there is an extensive collection of photographs made in Texas during the 1940s as part of a Standard Oil of New Jersey photography project directed by Roy Stryker; there are another 150 photographs of contemporary Texas by sixteen photographers from a sesquicentennial project commissioned by the Texas Historical Foundation. In 1979, the museum commissioned Richard Avedon to produce a series of photographs of people in the American West, and his 124 photographs, completed in 1984, are central to the contemporary photography collection.
Archives and Monographic Collections
Eliot Porter (1901--1990)
Regarded as the first photographer to work extensively with color photography, Eliot Porter bequeathed to the Amon Carter his collection of approximately 9,500 prints; 84,000 transparencies; and assorted portfolios and book dummies. The collection's strength is approximately 7,500 dye transfer images that reflect Porter's lifelong exploration of color. A bird and nature photographer, Porter used his photographs to support a conservation ethic and published them extensively, producing more than twenty-five books in his lifetime. In 2002, the Amon Carter published the Eliot Porter online collection guide, a digital guide to one of the museum’s principal holdings.
Laura Gilpin (1891--1979)
One of the foremost American photographers of the Southwest, Laura Gilpin bequeathed to the museum her library and collection of 6,000 prints and 27,000 negatives. In 1918, after studying with Clarence White in New York, Gilpin returned to her native Colorado Springs to begin her professional photography career, making soft-focus landscapes, portraits, and still lifes that reﬂect the pictorial fashion of the time. She gradually adopted a more hard-edged style to document the southwestern landscape and the Pueblo and Navaho Indians. Her images depict American Indians with simplicity and grace, living in an intimate relationship with the land. Gilpin’s photographs are unmatched as a visual record of the profound changes and deep continuities in twentieth-century American Indian life.
Karl Struss (1886--1981)
A leading pictorial photographer of the pre-World War I era, Karl Struss is represented in the collection with 300 prints and 5,000 negatives. His reputation was established when Alfred Stieglitz selected his work for the 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography and then published a portfolio in Camera Work in 1912. In 1909 Struss invented the Struss Pictorial Lens, a soft-focus lens that proved immensely popular with other photographers of the period, including Laura Gilpin. After studying with Clarence White, Struss took over his studio in 1914 and specialized in portraiture, advertising, and magazine illustration. Five years later he moved to Hollywood and became Cecil B. DeMille's still-cameraman. Struss soon turned from still photography to cinematography, filming such works as Ben Hur (1925) and Sunrise (1927), for which he received the first Academy Award for cinematography.
Clara Sipprell (1885--1975)
Clara Sipprell was one of America's most active pictorial photographers. Sipprell's use of a soft-focus lens and her reliance entirely upon natural light gave her photographs an atmospheric effect and moody romanticism. She was a successful portraitist, but she did not confine herself to that genre. Her landscapes, cityscapes, and still lifes were exhibited in the national and international salons of the 1920s and 1930s. There are over 1,000 photographs by Sipprell in the collection, a gift from The Dorothea Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc.
Nell Dorr (1893--1988)
Nell Dorr began photographing as a child and continued working throughout her lifetime. Her work is an expression of personal history, using photographs as a means of communication about family life and experiences. Dorr also photographed many famous people, among them Lillian Gish and Carl Sandburg, and she experimented with light abstractions, negative manipulations, and alternative printing processes. Her work is best represented in her books and in several exhibitions, including the 1955 Museum of Modern Art show The Family of Man and her solo exhibition Mother and Child. The collection of approximately 500 prints and 5,000 negatives was donated by the Nell Dorr estate.
Carlotta Corpron (1901--1988)
Carlotta Corpron lived most of her life in Denton, Texas, and taught design at Texas Women's University until 1968. She bequeathed to the museum her collection of 200 prints and more than 800 negatives made when she actively pursued photography, between the mid-1930s and the mid-1940s. Her work is almost exclusively an investigation of light, a theme intensified by her study with Gyorgy Kepes; her early work depicts light reflected by natural forms, while in later works she photographed light itself as a pattern in abstract compositions.
Helen Post (1907--1979)
The sister of Farm Security Administration photographer Marion Post Wolcott, Helen Post was a freelance photographer in New York who photographed Indian tribes throughout the West and Southwest from 1936 to 1941. Post gained the trust and friendship of her subjects and thereby gained access to traditionally closed societies. The majority of her photographs were never published or exhibited. Post's son, Peter Modley, donated the collection of nearly 1,000 prints and 5,000 negatives to the museum in 1985.
Erwin E. Smith (1886--1947)
Erwin E. Smith worked primarily in Texas from about 1905 through the mid-1920s. This collection contains approximately 150 of his prints and negatives of cowboys, ranch life, and American Indians. The holdings include 2,409 negatives on deposit from the Library of Congress and a group of prints and negatives donated by Mary Alice Pettis, Smith's half-sister. In 2002, the Amon Carter published the Erwin E. Smith online collection guide, the most comprehensive and accessible publication to date of this artist’s work.
Fred and Jo Mazzulla Collection
This collection holds about 5,000 photographic images pertaining chiefly to the nineteenth-century history of Colorado, with significant bodies of work by William Henry Jackson, W.J. Carpenter, and Joseph Collier.
Almost 6,000 glass-plate negatives of the American West make up this collection. Artists include E.E. Henry, John Kabel, Silas Melander, Harrison Putney, Horace Stevenson, and Richard Stevenson. These holdings also include a small group of glass-plate negatives of the 1898 Alaskan gold rush and a group of portraits documenting the African-American communities of eastern Kansas between 1875 and World War I.
Ed Irwin Collection
This collection consists of 371 glass-plate negatives by William E. "Ed" Irwin (1871--1935), a photographer active in the Oklahoma Territory, West Texas, and Arizona from about 1894 to 1920.
Bureau of American Ethnology Photographs
The objects in this collection are vintage duplicates of about 1,400 American Indian photographs assembled by the Smithsonian Institution from the 1850s through the 1930s. Many of the images were created while tribal representatives visited Washington in the hopes of negotiating favorable treaty terms with the United States. Approximately 500 photographs within this collection illustrate narrative entries in Jackson’s Descriptive Catalogue of North American Indians (1877). Some depictions of American Indian subjects by John K. Hillers and William H. Jackson were made in the field while they served as photographers for the United States Geological Surveys headed by John Wesley Powell and Ferdinand V. Hayden.
Earl Alonzo Brininstool Collection
A newspaper reporter turned western historian, Earl Alonzo Brininstool (1870–1957) acquired photographs, published books, and contributed to the dialogue about post-Civil War plains settlement. Assembled by Brininstool between 1913 and the late 1930s, the approximately 300 nineteenth-century images in this collection include American Indian subjects, as well as portrayals of the American cowboy. Created mostly by well known photographers, the collection also documents many participants involved in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, such as Hunkpapa Chief Sitting Bull by David F. Barry. The collection also includes images made in 1891 by John C. Grabill immediately following the conflict at Wounded Knee.