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Benjamen Chinn collection

Identifier: AG 251

Scope and Contents

This collection contains various sized negatives and prints representing Benjamen Chinn’s most influential periods of his artistic work. Negatives include work from Chinn’s time in Paris as well as his work photographing in the streets of San Francisco. Negatives and images are from 1947-1952 and 1960, as well as undated.


  • 1947-1952, 1960

Language of Materials

Not described.

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

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

Benjamen Chinn was born on April 30th 1921 in Chinatown San Francisco. His older brother John introduced him to photography and taught him how to develop and print images in their basement darkroom. During WWII, Chinn served in the Pacific as an aerial and public relations photographer in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

After WWII, Chinn was accept into the new fine art photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), now the San Francisco Art Institute; where he was groomed as a member of the next generation of the “West Coast School of Photography” by Minor White and Ansel Adams. While at CFSA, Chinn began photographing Chinatown, making intimate portraits of everyday, postwar life.

From 1950-1951, Chinn studied in Europe at the Académie Julian and photographed Parisian street life; he also because friends with Henri Cartier-Bresson during this time. In 1954 Perceptions, containing some of Chinn’s Parisian images, was shown at the San Francisco Museum of Art by Minor White.

In 1953 Chinn went to work for the U.S. Sixth Army Photo lab, where he met and trained Paul Caponigro in technical processes. Chinn had a 31 year career at the Army Photo lab, and continued to travel and photograph after his retirement. Chinn died April 25th, 2009.


7 Boxes (6 linear feet)

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


Benjamen Chinn was taught photography at a young age and took that knowledge skill into the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII. Chinn then attended the new fine art photography at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, where he learned from Minor White and Ansel Adams; during this time he began photographing everyday life in Chinatown. From 1950-1951, Chinn studied in Europe at the Académie Julian and photographed Parisian street life. Images from both periods are represented in this collection; as well as exchange prints made by other photographers.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Photographic Materials

Custodial History

The Benjamen Chinn archive was donated by the Benjamen Chinn estate to the Center for Creative Photography in 2014.

Processing Information

Finding aid updated by Meghan Jordan in June 2016.

Benjamen Chinn archive 1947-1952, 1960
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 2020
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
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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