The noted civil-rights and arts photographer Bob Adelman will present a series of four lectures at the Library of Congress and serve as a consulting photographer to expand awareness of the Library’s visual collections and advise on potential new acquisitions.
Adelman will kick off his consultancy on Aug. 30 at the Library of Congress National Book Festival with a talk at 1:40 p.m. in the Special Programs Pavilion. He will discuss his new book “Andy Warhol’s First Fifteen Minutes.” The annual National Book Festival, free and open to the public, will take place on Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place, N.W., Washington, DC.
In this presentation, Adelman will relate his experience of witnessing, and capturing through photographs, the emergent artistic career of Andy Warhol during the early to mid-1960s. Adelman, known for his passion and wit, will share some of his stories about Warhol, whom he befriended before Warhol became famous.
Throughout the coming year, Adelman will work with curators in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division to review the collections, assist in identifying under-represented areas and advise on potential acquisitions.
In addition to his talk at the National Book Festival, Adelman will make presentations in conjunction with three upcoming exhibitions at the Library: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” and the photography of pioneering documentary photographer and social activist Jacob Riis.
“Through his lectures and consultancy, Bob Adelman will help the Library generate greater public attention to documentary photography as a crucial source of historical and cultural knowledge about the United States, especially depictions of the lives and contributions of its citizens,” said Helena Zinkham, chief of the Prints and Photographs Division.
For more than 60 years, Adelman has been an engaged presence in the world of documentary photography. Born in New York City in 1930, Adelman grew up on Long Island. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s philosophy from Columbia University, and studied law at Harvard.
Adelman studied photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the famed art director of Harper’s Bazaar magazine. As a working photographer and producer of photographic books, Adelman has pursued an avid interest in social and political events. This interest began with coverage of events related to civil rights, such as sit-ins by students across the American South and demonstrations by the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) in the early 1960s. His engagement with issues of social justice continues to the present time.
Adelman has said of his photography, “My life’s work, in addition to being about race relations, is about the many and diverse social concerns in the great tradition of American documentary photography: poverty, mental illness, alcoholism, inadequate housing, the immigrant experience, prostitution, delinquency, illiteracy and on and on.”
His mentor, Ralph Ellison, once said, “Adelman has moved beyond the familiar clichés of most documentary photography into that rare sphere wherein technical ability and social vision combine to create a work of art.”
Verna Curtis, curator of photography in the Prints and Photographs Division, said, “Adelman has immersed himself in key events of our time and known many of the great individuals who made them happen, from the inspirational Martin Luther King, Jr. and pop pioneers Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to fiction writer Raymond Carver. At a time when photographic documentation was becoming personal, Adelman delved deeply into the documentary tradition as Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange, two of his heroes, had before him. He found important issues—such as poverty, education, war and women’s rights—and became involved in changing and improving what he had witnessed. Adelman’s photographs were used in many venues: classrooms, court cases and fundraising campaigns.”
Adelman said in a recent interview, “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.”
Adelman has received many honors in recognition of his work, including a Guggenheim fellowship, Art Directors Club awards (New York, Washington and San Francisco), American Institute of Graphic Arts 50 Books awards and the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism Award. He has taught at the International Center for Photography, the New School, the School of Visual Arts, Columbia University, Stanford University, Union College, the University of Minnesota, Ohio State University, the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and the Steamboat Falls Workshop.
The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division holds approximately 14.4 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day. International in scope, these visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/print/.