SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE: The Eliot Porter Papers span the years from 1866 to 1993. The material is arranged into eleven series: Biographical; Correspondence;
Financial Records; Journals and Notebooks; Writings; Exhibitions; Articles and
Clippings; Awards; Artifacts; Family Papers; and Publications.
While some documentation on Porter's early years is included in the papers, the collection focuses on his photographic work from the 1950s through the 1980s. The collection also documents Porter's diverse yet equally passionate interests, covering topics ranging from natural history and conservation to social and political issues.
As with any processing project, the challenge in arranging and describing this collection was to maintain as much of the established order as possible while facilitating researcher access. The papers were organized while in Porter's possession, yet multiple and identically or similarly named series existed for the same types of material, and dates often overlapped. Series titles that did not necessarily denote the format or function of the materials in the series further complicated matters.
The following decisions were made to facilitate access. Porter's titles for series and folders are used. Folder titles or other information added by the processor is contained within brackets [ ]. When the same type of material was maintained in separate but identically or similarly named filing series, the series have been combined physically, with each filed one after the other rather than interfiled. It is hoped that the Scope and Content Notes, the Series Description, and the Container List will assist the researcher in locating the desired materials.
The Biographical Series contains autobiographical material and clippings from published interviews, exhibition information, and book reviews. The folder titled "Biographical" contains a typescript draft of an autobiography. The folder titled "Biographical Data and Publications–E.F.P." contains a résumé in which Porter lists the highlights of his long and distinguished career through the early 1980s.
The Correspondence Series is an extensive mixture of personal and business letters, documents, and fan mail, all interfiled. The majority of the letters is business correspondence pertaining to Porter's professional obligations such as photographic exhibitions, workshops and seminars, book projects, and committee work. Among the notable correspondents in this series are Ansel Adams, Annie Bishop, James C. Bones, David R. Brower, Robert Cahn, Victor Goss, Alice Hamilton, William Lees, Joseph Wood Krutch, David H. McAlpin, Beaumont Newhall, Georgia O'Keeffe, Russell W. Peterson, Stephen I. Rothstein, Jon Sering, Ralph Steiner, and John Wawrzonek.
The Financial Series reflects Porter's penchant for meticulous record keeping. Personal accounts were carefully separated from business accounts. Personal accounts include correspondence, contribution and gift acknowledgments and receipts, insurance policies, account transaction records, income tax records, deeds, and records for expenditures on houses and land owned by Porter on Great Spruce Head Island, Maine, and in Tesuque, New Mexico. Of particular interest is Porter's 1952 U.S. Income Tax statement (box 9) that includes an abstract of his photographic business from 1946 to 1952. The statement details his principal activities, experiences gained, new equipment, and recognition received, and it summarizes his work of the previous year.
Business accounts include correspondence, exhibition and gallery transaction records, photographic supply account records, and contract agreements. From 1977 to 1987, Porter kept files titled "Sales and Receipts" that include correspondence, statements of accounts, bills, and inventories.
The Journals and Notebooks Series, one of the largest series in the collection, primarily consists of handwritten and typed notes in bound journals, spiral notebooks, and loose-leaf binders. The majority is field ornithological observations, photographic exposure records, and shooting notes. Porter's travel diaries chronicle daily professional and personal experiences during trips to Africa, Antarctica, Baja California, China, Florida, the Grand Canyon, Iceland, Macau, Maine, Mexico, New Mexico, the Southwest, Texas, and West Virginia. Exposure records (boxes 22–38) contain detailed printing notes for dye transfer prints made by Porter and his various assistants.
Some exhibition-related materials also may be found in this series. A scrapbook entitled "Clippings" (box 17) is an important source for reviews and checklists from the 1930s and 1940s. The scrapbook also contains eight manuscript letters from Alfred Stieglitz regarding Porter's exhibition at An American Place in late 1938–early 1939. The series also includes Nancy Barrett's exhibition chronology for Intimate Landscapes (1979) and typescripts of "Photographing Birds" and Porter's lecture at the Amon Carter Museum on October 31, 1987.
The Writings Series is the largest series in the collection. Topics covered in Porter's articles, speeches, and statements (boxes 40–43) include bird photography, color photography, and conservation. The series also includes related correspondence and research materials (boxes 43–47) and manuscripts (boxes 48–62) for Porter's books. It should be noted that contracts for Porter's books may not be found with the publication-related correspondence but instead may be located in the three "Contracts and Agreements" folders in box 64.
Materials in the Exhibitions Series reflect the vast number of exhibitions and workshops in which Porter participated. Press releases and reviews are filed with their respective exhibitions. Porter also kept gallery announcements and catalogs regarding other photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, and these materials are included in this series.
The Articles and Clippings Series documents Porter's diverse interests. Porter long supported ornithology and conservation efforts. He held and expressed strong ideas regarding the economic and political nature of the country. He was a frequent contributor to the editorial sections of the Santa Fe New Mexican and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and corresponded regularly with U. S. Senators Joseph S. Clark, Pete Domenici, and Joseph Montoya.
The Awards Series contains numerous certificates and honors Porter received for his work as a photographer, ornithologist, and conservationist. Among his many honors were commendations from the National Wildlife Federation, the National Park Service, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Photography in the Fine Arts. He also received the United States Department of the Interior's Conservation Service Award, the Photographic Society of America Progress Medal, an award from the Cooper Ornithological Society, the Governor's Award from the New Mexico Arts Commission, a citation from the Maine State Commission on Arts and Humanities, and the "Kulturpreis" of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Photographie, the highest German decoration for outstanding merit in the field of photography.
Artifacts is a unique series containing some of the actual plaques, medals, and academic hoods presented to Porter as described in the Awards Series above.
Family Papers is a series of materials maintained separately from Porter's other correspondence and includes personal correspondence from 1955 through 1990 and other personal and family-related materials.
Publications is a series of individual items including copies of Porter's books and portfolios, as well as items such as filmstrips, calendars, and periodicals containing reproductions of Porter's images. These materials have not yet been inventoried.
RELATED COLLECTIONS IN THE ACM ARCHIVES: Dr. W. Powell Cottrille Collection of Eliot Porter Materials; Eliot Porter/Ansel Adams Correspondence; Patrick Porter Collection of Eliot Porter Letters; Stephen Porter Collection of Eliot Porter Papers.
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