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Wright Morris collection

Identifier: AG 190

Scope and Contents

Morris arranged and identified many of his negatives according to projects, trips, and subjects. The majority of the negatives are unidentified, however. They range from his earliest negatives of a European trip in the early 1930s and also include images from his cross-country trip in 1938; his summer on Cape Cod; work done over many years for The Inhabitants; work in the South including Faulkner country, North Carolina, West Virginia, and New Orleans; work in the West including Colorado, Wyoming, and California; work for the 1942 and 1946 Guggenheim projects; and many negatives shot for The Home Place project.

The black and white negatives have been resleeved and reboxed but they have not been researched or organized. Boxes 5 – 7 are in Morris’s original groupings which sometimes do not match the negatives within the groups.


  • 1930-1980

Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

Some negatives have been isolated in cold storage and have heavy deterioration. Please see Archivist for details.

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for the photography of Wright Morris is held by the Center for Creative Photography. Rights to Morris’s writings are administered by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Archives and Special Collections, P.O. Box 884100, Lincoln, NE 68588-4100.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Wright Morris (1910-1998) was a renowned writer and affective photographer. Pairing photographs with his own writing, Morris pioneered a new tradition of “photo-texts” in the 1940s that proved highly influential to future photographers. Devoid of figures, his photographs depict everyday objects and atmosphere. Morris’s poetic images exist in a fictional narrative, but reference documentary style.

Born in Nebraska, Morris attended Pomona College in Claremont, California. After graduation he traveled throughout Europe, purchasing his first camera in Vienna. Morris returned to California in 1934 determined to become a writer, but also continued to photograph. In 1935, he bought a Rolleiflex camera and began photographing extensively. Morris first exhibited his photo-texts in 1940, at the New School for Social Research in New York. This same year the Museum of Modern Art purchased prints for their collection and New Directions published images that would become his first book.

In 1942, Morris received the first of his three Guggenheim Fellowships, funding the completion of The Inhabitants. Published by Scribners, The Inhabitants (1946) documented domestic scenes of the South, Midwest, and Southwest and although visually influential enjoyed little financial success. His second photo-text book, The Home Place (1948) was a visual novel, with short fictional prose accompanying each photograph. Although groundbreaking, it remained unmarketable and after its publication Morris invested in his more successful career as a writer. In 1956, Morris won the National Book Award for his tenth book, the unillustrated A Field of Vision. Morris continued to write and publish while teaching English and creative writing from 1962-1974 at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California. Morris’s acclaimed novel, Plains Song won American Book Award for Fiction 1981.

The Museum of Modern Art proved supportive of Morris throughout his career, both exhibiting and purchasing his work. MoMA curator John Szarkowski prompted a reconsideration of Wright Morris with the publication of God’s Country and My People (1968), widely considered Morris’s most successful photo-text book. Morris’s exhibition career burgeoned in his later years with many shows including Wright Morris: Origin of a Species, a 1992 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and following his death, Distinctly American: The Photography of Wright Morris at Stanford’s Cantor Center of Art in 2002.

The Wright Morris archive contains 357 vintage prints (printed by Morris and under his supervision); a portfolio of 12 modern prints published by the Witkin Gallery in 1981; about 500 prints work prints; and photographic materials including black and white film negatives in a variety of formats, color 35mm slides, videotapes, and a small selection of portraits of Morris and his wife, Josephine Kantor.


9 Boxes (3 linear feet)


Photographic materials, 1930s- 1980, of Wright Morris (1910-1998), photographer and writer. Consists of black and white film negatives in a variety of formats, color 35 mm slides, videotapes, and a small selection of portraits of Morris and his wife, Josephine.


The Collection has not been fully processed, however it is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Photographic Materials, circa 1930s-1950s, 8 boxes
  2. Series 2: Audiovisual Materials, 1980, 1 box

Custodial History

This collection was a bequest of the photographer’s widow, Josephine Morris, to the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona. The bulk of the materials arrived at the Center in 2003.

Separated Materials

Negatives have been isolated and placed into cold storage. Please see archivist for details.

Processing Information

Preliminary processing completed by Amy Rule, April 2003. Additional resleeving done by Jennifer Nichols, October 2005. Finding aid updated by Paige Hilman, January 2018.

Wright Morris collection 1930-1980
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2019
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States