Ready for Research: Newsmaker Photos by Bernard Gotfryd

The following is a guest post by Anne Mitchell, Senior Cataloging Specialist, Prints and Photographs Division.

Crowd of people with some holding signs in the background

Anti Vietnam War demonstration New York. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, ca. 1968 or 1969. //

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.

Pei pointing to a model with Perlman at his side.

Itzhak Perlman with I.M. Pei, architect, looking at model of NYC Convention Center. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, 1980. //

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.

Author seated at a desk with a book open in front of her.

Toni Morrison. Author, at her upstate New York home. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, between 1980 and 1987. //

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.

Arthur Laurents, director La Cage aux Folles. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, 1983. //

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.

Joan Nidetch holding up a set of photos

Jean Nidetch, founder of Weight Watchers. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, between 1970 and 1980. //

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.

Fidel Castro standing at podium, gesturing

Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba. Castro at the U.N. [United Nations, New York]. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, 1979 October. //

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.

Group of men and women, most posing in brightly colored clothing.

Armored Fashions. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, 1980. //

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:

Screenshot showing table with data categories and data

Screenshot of Gotfryd metadata in the database in which it was compiled, 2021.

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.

Learn more:

Celebrating Artists’ Portraits at the Library of Congress for African American History Month

The following guest post is by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division In honor of African American History Month, this gathering of extraordinary individual and group portraits by contemporary artists features works that speak of community, family, and the envisioned past, present, and future. Nelson Stevens’s vibrant screenprint called Spirit Sister, […]

Born in Slavery: Portraits and Narratives of Formerly Enslaved People

Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. One way to commemorate this anniversary might be to explore the online collection Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938. More than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of formerly enslaved people are available online. These narratives were collected in […]

Focusing on Lewis Hine’s Photographic Technique

The following is a guest post by Ryan Brubacher, Reference Librarian, Prints & Photographs Division Lewis Hine, at a certain point in his career, began to refer to himself as an “interpretive photographer” and not a social photographer as he’d been previously termed. While we might imagine him an investigative photo-journalist by today’s standards, his […]

Celebrating Eleven Years in the Flickr Commons

Eleven years ago today we posted our first sets of photos in the Flickr Commons, which was created to share treasures from the world’s public archives. Thousands of pictures, views, and comments later, we’re celebrating with a new album of pictures with an “eleven-ish” connection and an invitation to participate in a tagging activity in […]

Profiling Portraits: Family Groups in Pictures

In this latest entry in our occasional series, Profiling Portraits, I was inspired by an attempt to take a group photo during a recent family visit, as well as time spent looking through photo albums at previous years’ similar efforts. Family photos tend to evoke memories, elicit questions about older ancestors and of course provide […]

Reflecting on the Lives and Deaths of Young Civil War Soldiers

The following is a guest post by Ben Zuercher, Liljenquist Family Fellow through the Stanford in Government program, Prints & Photographs Division, Summer 2018.  Ben helped to describe recently received items in the Liljenquist Family Collection. Working with the Liljenquist collection carries the constant feeling of wonder and intrigue, as every picture tells a story […]

A House Hunt: Which Members of Congress Are Shown in this Panoramic Photo?

Many pictures come into Prints and Photographs Division collections with little or no identification on them. It’s not entirely surprising, since a portion of our collections were generated or collected by individuals who readily knew the who, what, where and when that depictions can evoke and didn’t feel compelled to write it down. But even […]

Celebrating Harriet Tubman and the Emily Howland Album

Last week, Prints and Photographs Division staff had an opportunity to participate in Washington, D.C.’s first annual celebration of Harriet Tubman Day, which represented several very satisfying convergences. The official Harriet Tubman Day is March 10th, the date of Tubman’s death (the date of her birth is not known). The celebration was held March 8th  […]

Remembering the African American Soldiers of the 9th U.S. Volunteer Infantry

The following is a guest post by Jonathan Eaker, Reference Librarian, Prints & Photographs Division. Recently while going through some military photos in our collection I came across a set of twelve undigitized group portraits showing African American soldiers at the time of the Spanish American War. The photos launched me on research about a […]