The following is a guest post by Anne Mitchell, Senior Cataloging Specialist, Prints and Photographs Division.
Interested in news-worthy people and events from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s? Get ready to explore the work of photographer Bernard Gotfryd, who donated his work to the Library of Congress. Copyright restrictions ended in 2016. Now available online are scans showing his 8,803 color slides.
Bernard Gotfryd (1924-2016) was born in Poland to Jewish parents. He worked as an apprentice photographer during WWII and was also imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. After the war he moved to New York and was active as a photographer from 1957 through the 1980s. Many photographs in this collection were taken as part of assignments for Newsweek magazine.
The color slides are one part of the 20,134 total photographs in this Bernard Gotfryd collection. The more than 11,000 black-and-white photographs are available to researchers through contact sheets and prints that can be viewed by visiting the Prints & Photographs Reading Room.
One of the slide elements that I particularly enjoy is the way that Gotfryd captures his subjects engaged in activities that illustrate their careers, including architect I.M. Pei looking at a design model with musician Itzhak Perlman, who discussed with Pei new ideas to enable disabled people to be more comfortable using a building.
Among the many other designers and artists in the portraits are fashion designer Liz Claiborne in 1982; painter Roy Lichtenstein in 1969; and Francesco Clemente with his fresco at the Palladium night club, New York City, in 1985.
Here are just a few of the popular authors, poets, biographers, and playwrights: poet Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the Nobel Prize for poetry, 1980; journalist and book author Anna Quindlen; historian and biographer Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and novelist Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, shown below.
You will also find plenty of celebrities, including musicians and television, film, and theater actors: Joan Baez, Claudette Colbert, Captain Kangaroo, Miriam Makeba and Paul Simon, and Leslie Uggams, as well as individuals who directed and produced in the film and theater, such as Arthur Laurents posed in front of the marquee below.
Photographs featuring business leaders, entrepreneurs, and corporate activities show John DeLorean, automobile executive; General Motors Plant, Linden, New Jersey; corporate fitness, Pepsico headquarters in Purchase, New York, and Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers, seemingly showing her own awareness of the power of the picture below.
Politics, politicians, and activism are heavily represented subject areas. Nelson Rockefeller is campaigning in Philadelphia, PA. Bella Abzug is at a N.O.W. demonstration for Iranian women’s rights with Marlo Thomas and Gloria Steinem. David Dinkins and Desmond Tutu are speaking at an anti-apartheid rally in New York City. President Jimmy Carter and Miss Lillian are in Plains, Georgia. Andrew Young is at the United Nations Security Council, and Fidel Castro is also shown speaking at the U.N., as seen below. Gotfryd photographed Castro with so many images taken in quick succession that, seen together, they almost look like a movie.
You can also glean cultural and communications trends of the era through Gotfryd’s camera lens, including popular toys (Cabbage Patch Kids and Smurfs make an appearance), modern art installations, television news and late-night programming, and fashion designs.
Readying the Collection for Online Viewing
Gotfryd donated the entire collection in 2004, retaining the copyright only for his lifetime. He died in 2016. His portraits became a high priority for “processing,” because researchers would have generous access and usage opportunities. The organization, description, and scanning unfolded in two phases. Portraits of the same person can be found in both the black-and-white and the color slide images, so it’s important to check for the names of people in both catalog records and the finding aid.
During phase one (2017-2019), the processing team used the brief captions in Gotfryd’s records to create access through an archivial finding aid to descriptions of the more than 11,000 black-and-white photographic prints, contact sheets, and negatives. Phase two (2019-2021) focused on the color slides, which need very cold storage for their preservation. Slide processing involved reviewing groups of slides and restoring their arrangement; stamping, numbering, and housing safely in archival quality boxes; and keying basic caption information from slide mounts into a spreadsheet. The digitization proposal was approved because the scans accomplish two goals at once: universal online access for popular content and long-term preservation because the original slides can stay in cold storage rather than travel to and from the reading room.
Scanning was delayed due to COVID-19, but the contractor could finally start in September 2020 and finished in October. Post-scanning tasks performed by Prints & Photographs Division staff included quality review of the digital images, creating derivatives, and loading the files to the library’s servers.
The final activity, completed in April 2021, was creating the catalog records for the slides. This part of the project is an example of a well-established P&P workflow that we have used successfully for cataloging large sets of both digitized and born digital items. This work involves taking the brief descriptions in the spreadsheet and creating “inventory level” catalog records. The inventory level records are brief and rely on the most basic descriptive elements: creator name, the brief title/name provided by the photographer, date, and keywords and by geographical location, if known. For some images, we were able to include names for people we recognized or to add contextual information. For items lacking dates, we tracked down the years for well-documented events, or we added probable date ranges.
Gotfryd supplied keywords in a few instances (including his category term “Personalities”). We were able to enhance keyword access by adding occupations or at least one main subject for most photographs. We completed the records in an Access database using the capabilities of the database to allow us to filter data to check and ‘bulk add’ some information based on specific criteria. After records were completed in Access and transformed into catalog records using MarcEdit software, the entire set of records was bulk-loaded to LC’s online catalog by the ILS Program Office.
This is what the initial metadata looks like when it is mapped to catalog record fields in the MARC format before transformation into catalog records and bulk load:
To conclude, I hope you enjoy your time travel trip to the late 20th century via Bernard Gotfryd’s photographs. A great encapsulation of this era awaits your exploration.
- Read more detail about the whole of the Bernard Gotfryd Collection in the guide record description.
- Browse the digitized color slides and selected black-and-white images that have been digitized.
- Explore the Bernard Gotfryd photograph collection finding aid to get a sense of what additional subjects you could see if you make a research visit.
- Have a look at the Library of Congress Blog post about the Gotfryd Collection, with still more great image selections! (Link added 6/17/21)