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The Changing Face of Washington, D.C. in the U.S News & World Report Magazine Photo Collection

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One of the most fascinating and enjoyable aspects of research with visual materials is the wide variety of information you can learn from a single image, from the obvious to the unexpected.  A photographic portrait, for example, has a primary job of showing you what someone looks like. But beyond that, you could learn about hairstyles and clothing of the era. What does the expression or clothing suggest about the occasion the photo was taken for  – was it for a solemn event; was it candid or posed? What was its purpose – for a publication or a family photo?  Looked at together, multiple photos taken by a single photographer can indicate something of their style, their studio set-up, their equipment. And that is just the beginning.

[U.S. News & World Report employee working in the production plant in Dayton, Ohio]. Photo by Thomas J. O’Halloran. 1957 Mar. 15.
All of this also applies when looking at an entire collection – there is always more than one story to be uncovered. The U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR) Magazine Photograph Collection would suggest, by its title, that the photos in it were taken for the magazine, and that they would feature images related to American and world news. And they do!  But amongst the nearly 1.2 million original 35 mm and 2 1/4 inch negatives (primarily black & white) and 45,000 contact sheets, taken between 1952 and 1986, there is so much more.

Join me for a virtual presentation on Thursday, Feb. 3 (details at the bottom of the post) to see another side of the USN&WR collection – its decades long documentation of the changing face of Washington, D.C., as captured by the magazine’s staff photographers. Below, we see a photographer at work, perched high up on a walkway around the dome of the Library of Congress Jefferson Building. The ongoing construction on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol continues in the background.

[Photographer with a camera on a tripod, on a balcony, taking a picture of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.]
[Photographer with a camera on a tripod, on a balcony, taking a picture of the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.] Photo by Warren K. Leffler, February 1959.
Our capital city continues to evolve and the photos from this collection document brand new construction adjacent to as well as supplanting historic buildings; new museums and memorials; the massive installation of the Metro system under the city, and, of course, renovations, expansions and seemingly endless construction of both commercial and government buildings.  A small sampling of the collection has been and is currently being digitized. Enjoy some examples below and sign up for the presentation to see and learn more!

[Air views of Washington, D.C., construction of the Rayburn House Office Building]. Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, 1960 June 7.
Changing face of Washington, D.C. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 1974 April 10.

[Workmen hoisting a column during restoration work on the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.] Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 1960 May 26.
Monumental Washington story [Library of Congress]. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 1971.
[The memorial to Theodore Roosevelt under construction on Theodore Roosevelt Island, Washington, D.C.] Photo by Warren K. Leffler, 1965 Oct. 6.
[Reconstruction of the Main Hall of Union Station into the National Visitors Center, showing excavation of a recessed pit, Washington, D.C.] Photo by Thomas J. O’Halloran, 1974 Dec. 20.
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  1. Nice photos (well scanned!), interesting “recent” period of change in the Library’s neighborhood. Made me curious about Warren Leffler. Easy to search and find short blurbs about him from the U.S. Department of State, a photojournalist “org,” and elsewhere. If there is a longer writeup, I did not dig deep enough to find it. But I learned from the State Department micro-note that Leffler was well known for his coverage of the Civil Rights movement. Altogether a dandy reminder of the versatility and skills of the photojournalists of that period. Many thanks! Carl

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