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Bob Adelman photograph collection

 Collection
Identifier: NA-0014-01

Summary

Bob Adelman (1930-2016) took photography classes with Alexey Brodovitch at The New School in the 1950s and became one of the photographers regularly documenting the life of the New School in the 1970s and 1980s. He also taught photography courses at the school. Adelman was one of the most well-known photographers of the Civil Rights Movement. The Bob Adelman photograph collection consists predominantly of black and white photographic prints taken for the New School for Social Research (now The New School) during the late 1970s-early 1980s. The collection also includes a small group of prints representing Adelman's work in documentary journalism, including photographs of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as photographs documenting life in New Orleans and Moscow, and the New York City Housing Authority.

Dates

  • circa 1960-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 1984

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

The Bob Adelman photograph collection is covered by a non-exclusive license for non-profit use. To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from The New School Archives. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Biographical note

Bob Adelman took photography classes with Alexey Brodovitch at The New School in the 1950s and became one of the photographers regularly documenting the life of The New School in the 1970s and 1980s. [1] He also taught photography courses at the school, including Thinking Images and Innovative Images from 1976 to 1977, and Photo Reporting from 1985 to 1988. His artfully composed and lively shots provide direct insight into the everyday life on campus, and were used in course catalogs and promotion materials for the school for many years.

A child of Eastern European immigrants, Robert (Bob) Adelman was born in Brooklyn in 1930, and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. After graduating from Stuyvesant High School, he graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree and from Columbia University with a master’s degree in philosophy. He also studied law at Harvard University. [2]

As a volunteer photographer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNNC), Adelman's iconic photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and of sit-ins and civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama and Washington, D.C., made him one of the most well-known photographers of the civil rights movement. [3] During the 1960s, Adelman also photographed many prominent figures in the New York art world, including Samuel Beckett, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. He maintained a lifelong friendship and continued to play chess regularly with Lichtenstein. Adelman moved to Miami Beach, Florida in 1997, where he lived and worked until his death in 2016. Adelman was a prolific writer, authoring 75 books on a range of subjects. [4]

Adelman published his photographs in Look, Life, and the New York Times, earning a Guggenheim Fellowship, among many awards. His work will be found in the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, where he was named a consultant photographer in the last two years of his life. [5]

Committed to documenting a broad array of social issues, especially poverty, housing, and education, Adelman worked for the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. “When I photographed, I was intent on telling the truth as best I saw it and then to help in doing something about it. It was a constant effort not only to document in as honest a way as I could, and to make what I was seeing vivid, but to figure out how to change things,” he explained. [6]



[1] Reinholz, Mary. “Bob Adelman, 85, photographer who covered civil rights, M.L.K.” Villager, March 31, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2017. http://thevillager.com/2016/03/31/bobadelman-85-photographer-who-covered-civil-rights-m-l-k/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Estrin, James. “Bob Adelman: From Civil Rights to Making a Difference.” New York Times, March 21, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2017. https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/03/21/bob-adelman-civil-rights-obit-photos/

[4] Reinholz, Mary. “Bob Adelman, 85, photographer who covered civil rights, M.L.K.”

[5] Ibid.

[6] Brown-Hinds, Paulette. “Bob Adelman to Lecture and Consult in Photography at Library of Congress.” Black Voice News, August 30, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2017. http://www.blackvoicenews.com/2014/08/30/bob-adelman-to-lecture-and-consult-in-photography-at-library-ofcongress/

Extent

5 Linear Feet (7 boxes, 2 binders, 2 oversized folders)

3.2 Cubic Feet (7 boxes, 2 binders, 2 oversized folders)

Language of Materials

English

Scope and Contents

The Bob Adelman photograph collection consists predominantly of black and white photographic prints taken by photographer Bob Adelman for the New School for Social Research (now The New School) during the late 1970s-early 1980s. The university used Adelman's images in print publicity materials, such as course catalogs, without captions or credits except for a general notice in the catalog listing all individuals who had contributed photographic content.

All photographs in the first series fall into the range of roughly 1978-1984. However, while processing the collection archivists observed different dates stamped onto multiple prints of the same image. Some of the prints in the first series are the same images as prints in the New School Photograph Collection (NS.04.01.01) and the New School Marketing and Communications records (NS.03.01.04). Original contact sheets and negatives for some of these duplicate images herein will be found in those other collections.

The second series consists of a small group of prints unrelated to The New School, with a subset representing Adelman's well-known work in documentary journalism, capturing the civil rights movement in the United States, including photographs of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. These were probably taken for magazines and also used in Adelman's book King: The Photobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (2000). Most of these photographs are stamped, but only some are dated. As with the first series, researchers should not use stamped dates as a means to identify the year in which Adelman took the photograph. This cautionary note is especially important for this second series, where photographs which were taken in the early to mid-1960s bear stamps ranging between 1978 and 1983.

Other photographs in the second series document everyday life in New Orleans, images of black Americans in urban and rural settings, and the community activities and services of the New York City Housing Authority. Another series of color snapshots were taken in Moscow, probably around 1990. It has not been established whether the Moscow project was connected to Adelman's teaching at The New School.

Organization and Arrangement

The collection is arranged in 2 series: I. The New School, II. Non- New School

Other Finding Aids

For selected item-level description and images from the Bob Adelman photograph collection, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/NA001401

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Received from Engart LLC, management company on behalf of anonymous donor, December 2016.

Related Materials

Contact sheets related to the prints in this collection will be found in the New School Marketing and Communications records (NS.03.01.04) Special Projects Office series. Additional and possibly duplicative prints -- although with editorial markings and captions assigned by university public relations staff -- will be found in the New School Photograph Collection (NS.04.01.01). The images integrated into university course catalogs as illustrative elements will be found in the New School course catalogs and bulletins (NS.05.01.01).

Processing Information

When the Bob Adelman photographs were donated to The New School Archives, the boxes had been separated from a larger run of boxes of prints that had been arranged in alphabetical order. The prints provided to the archives included those alphabetized under "N" for "New School." During processing, it became evident that a number of photographs included in the donation alphabetically preceded and succeeded the New School prints. These included those labeled "Moscow," "Negro Life," "New Orleans," and "New York City Housing Authority." (It was not evident whether these categories had been assigned by Adelman or by others.) Subsequent to the initial donation, the donor supplemented the collection with a group of prints representing Adelman's work in the civil rights movement. The prints in the second series of this collection represent both the pre- and post- "N" prints, as well as the supplemental donation.
Title
Guide to the Bob Adelman photograph collection
Status
Completed
Author
Agnes Szanyi
Date
June 21, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • December 10, 2020: Two folders of Adelman's photographs of Malcolm X and a fire hose attack on demonstrators found in a mixed box were added to the container list.