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Collection Description of the Photographs and Prints Division
The Photographs and Prints Division contains both documentary and fine art photographs which document the history and culture of peoples of African descent worldwide as well as the work of photographers of African descent. The collection of over 300,000 images ranges from mid-eighteenth century graphics to contemporary documentary and art photography; all of the major photographic processes are represented. The collection includes portraits of many prominent nineteenth and twentieth century figures, documents major historical events, and depicts various aspects of Black life throughout the world. Photographers represented include Bert Andrews, Walker Evans, Chester Higgins, Jr., Gordon Parks, Coreen Simpson, Aaron Siskind, Doris Ulmann, James VanDerZee and Carl Van Vechten.
The collection is strongest in the following subject areas: Slavery, Civil War, 19th-century Caribbean and South America, modern civil rights movements, performing and visual arts, organizations (fraternal, social and political), religion, military, Harlem (street scenes, churches, housing, businesses), and images of migrant and rural farm workers and families as represented by the Farm Security Administration Collection. The collection is also strong in twentieth century portraits of writers and artists from the Harlem Renaissance period, civic and political leaders worldwide, sports figures and performing artists.
Images from the Photographs and Prints Division are regularly included in print publications and in the works of documentary filmmakers and television producers.
Fifty-four thousand of the division's images have been captured on a videodisc in order to facilitate access and preservation. These images are currently being linked to a bibliographic database.
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