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Josef Breitenbach archive

Identifier: AG 90

Scope and Contents

The Josef Breitenbach Archive contains the personal papers and photographic materials of the photographer and teacher Josef Breitenbach (1896-1984). The materials in the archive date from 1873-1990 with the bulk of the collection dating from 1933-1983. The archive consists of Correspondence; Biographical materials; Writings and photography projects; Exhibitions; Education files; Publications; Financial, insurance, and legal records; Other materials; and Photographic materials.

The first series, Correspondence, is made up of three subseries: the first is correspondence arranged chronologically, the second contains selected correspondence, and the third contains family correspondence. The materials in this series includes personal, professional, and business correspondence. There is a selected index to the correspondence in Appendix C that covers correspondence in this series as well as throughout the collection.

The Biographical materials series contains correspondence, notes, school notebooks belonging to both Josef Breitenbach and his son Hans, as well as legal documents, date books, address books, and awards. Of note in this series are correspondence and legal documents regarding Breitenbach’s residence in Paris from 1933-1939, his time in labor camps between 1939 and 1941, and his immigration to the US in 1941. The boxes containing Breitenbach’s date books are also housed in this collection; a list of information and materials contained in the date books can be found in Appendix B.

The Writings and photography projects series includes drafts and proposals for articles and monographs, layouts, contact and proof prints, and a draft for a television program. Of note in this series are reviews, clippings, and correspondence regarding Breitenbach’s monograph Women of Asia, 1961-1971; documents of Bertolt Brecht plays; and material from his smell-based photography project. This series also contains writings by others about Breitenbach.

Documented in the Exhibitions series are announcements, catalogs, correspondence, press releases, installation views, and other materials documenting exhibitions by Breitenbach and by others. Of special note in this series are materials from Breitenbach’s exhibitions as a member of the German expatriate community in Paris in the 1930s.

The Education files contain materials related to courses taught by Breitenbach, whose educational career spans instruction in Paris, at the Black Mountain College, Florida Southern College, the Cooper Union School, and the New School for Social Research. Materials include correspondence, memoranda, outlines of courses and semesters, lecture and research notes, and material documenting public lectures and private photographic instruction.

The Publications series includes monographs, periodicals, tearsheets, and clippings from pieces written by or about Breitenbach.

Contained in the Financial, insurance, and legal records are receipts and bills, tax materials, canceled checks, bank statements, insurance records, leases, and legal documentation of income and business expenses.

The Other materials series includes six subseries that contain Reference files, largely documenting Breitenbach’s interest in Asian art and culture; Miscellaneous materials, made up of notes and sketches made by Breitenbach; Oversize materials; Medical records; Audiovisual materials, which includes audiotapes of lectures given by Breitenbach, miscellaneous audiovisual material, slides used in lectures, and a 16mm film; and Artifacts, which contains a medal awarded to Breitenbach, empty photographic containers, a stereo viewer, match box collection, unexposed glass plates, and original mounts of photographs.

The Josef Breitenbach Archive contains over 88 boxes of negatives, stereo views, transparencies, contact prints, and proof prints. A detailed list of the negatives exists and is available from the Archivist upon request. Breitenbach’s photographic career in Europe is documented well with glass negatives and stereo views and 120mm and 35mm negatives, and includes landscapes, portraits, nudes, and documentation of exhibitions. Included are portraits of Shelia Greene, Lili Kraus, and German actors such as Albert Basserman and Karl Valentin. While living in Paris, Breitenbach also photographed Bertoldt Brecht, Helene Weigel, Max Ernst, James Joyce, and Aristide Maillol, among others.

Breitenbach’s documentation of exhibitions in Paris during the late 1930s is an important source of information about the arts and politics before Germany invaded France in W.W.II. Breitenbach photographed; [Freie] Deutsche Buch, 1936 (Free German Books); The Paris International Exposition, 1937; 5 ans de régime hitlérien, (Five Years of the Hitler Regime), 1938; the International Surrealism Exhibition, 1938; [Freie] Deutsche Kunst (Free German Art), 1938; and the panels for a planned exhibition for the Freedom Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1939, The Germany of Yesterday, The Germany of Tomorrow.

Breitenbach arrived in New York City in 1941 and lived there until his death in 1984. 35mm, 120mm, and color transparencies record this period of his photographic activity. He produced commercial work for magazines such as American Fabrics, Esquire, Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar, and Survey Graphic. He made portraits of John Dewey, Josef Albers, Oskar Maria Graf, and Sarah Vaughan. Beginning in 1952, black-and-white negatives and contacts sheets as well as color transparencies record his extensive travels in Asia. Of special note in the Breitenbach photographic materials is early color work consisting of two Ilford Dufaycolor transparencies and two stereo transparencies from the 1930s.

Appendix A contains a list of exhibitions with documentation in the Breitenbach archive, including exhibitions Breitenbach participated in and exhibitions of others, spanning 1933-1983.

Appendix B contains a list of notations and inserts found in Breitenbach’s date books, stored in boxes 17-19 in the collection, as well as loose material now found in box 20.

Appendix C is a selected index to correspondence found throughout the collection. Please scroll down and click on the linked "External Document" to view a full container list.


  • 1873-1990


Language of Materials

Material in English, French, German

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Access

The negatives in boxes 88, 90-96, 104-105, and 119 are currently inaccessible due to renovations in CCP's cold storage facility. Negatives will be accessible once the renovation is complete and the negative boxes have been transferred to the new frozen storage space. The estimated date of availability is mid-year of 2023, although not guaranteed. Please be sure to email with any questions or for updates.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright to Josef Breitenbach’s papers and photographs is held by the Josef Breitenbach Trust. Permissions should be sought from the Trust.

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

Josef Breitenbach was born in Munich, Germany in 1896. He attended schools in Munich and served in the military in 1916. He eventually joined his father’s wine merchant business in 1919. Two school notebooks and early portraits are the extent of the documentation of this early period of Breitenbach’s life. It is known that he traveled with the wine business, and early photographs and negatives of Italy and France were probably made by Breitenbach during those trips.

When the wine business went bankrupt in 1932, Breitenbach opened a portrait studio and began photographing the City Theater in Munich. Many photographs and negatives of German theater personalities including photographs of Karl Valentin and Albert Basserman exist from this year. Again, little documentation other than photographs and negatives exist from this time.

In September 1933, Breitenbach left Munich with his son Hans and settled in Paris. He established a portrait studio and began teaching photography. Documentation of the Paris years, 1933-1941, is rich and varied. Documentation exists as correspondence, exhibition announcements, writings, notebooks, teaching materials, identity cards, rent statements, and photographic materials. Exhibition announcements, correspondence, and tearsheets show that his photographs were exhibited and reproduced in Paris as well as other countries. As a correspondent for the British International News Agency, Breitenbach wrote about and photographed the following important exhibitions in Paris: [Freie] Deutsche Buch, 1936 (Free German Books); The Paris International Exposition, 1937; 5 ans de régime hitlérien, (Five Years of the Hitler Regime), 1938; the International Surrealism Exhibition, 1938; and [Freie] Deutsche Kunst (Free German Art), 1938.

As a member of the German expatriate community in Paris, Breitenbach photographed Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht, and the rehearsals for a Brecht play in 1938. He also photographed Max Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, and others. In addition, Breitenbach photographed panels for a planned exhibition for the Freedom Pavilion, New York World’s Fair, 1939, The Germany of Yesterday, The Germany of Tomorrow.

In 1938 Germany revoked his citizenship. When Germany invaded France during W.W.II, Breitenbach was interned as an enemy alien in various camps. The archive documents with writings, correspondence, identity cards and other materials his time in the work camps, and his efforts to leave France. He successfully immigrated to the United States in 1941.

Josef Breitenbach established himself as a photographer and teacher in New York City in 1941. He lived there until his death in 1984. He used the English version of his name, Joseph, extensively after this period. He began to receive commercial assignments from magazines such as Fortune, Harper’s Bazaar, and Time.

Breitenbach’s long career as a teacher began in 1944 with an appointment to Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Although Breitenbach was hired by Josef Albers for only that summer, his photographs extensively document the buildings, students, teaching methods of Josef Albers and others at Black Mountain College and were used in subsequent brochures for the college. In 1946 he began teaching at Cooper Union and in 1949 at the New School for Social Research, both in New York City. Correspondence, lecture notes, and audio tapes of his lectures richly document his career as a teacher. During this period, Breitenbach collected photographs to supplement his lectures in photography. In 1979 his photograph collection was sold to the Müncher Stadtmuseum in Munich, Germany. No photographs from his teaching collection exist in his archive.

From 1952-53, Josef Breitenbach served as the Chief of Still Photography for the United Nations Reconstruction Agency in Korea. Those years served as Breitenbach’s introduction to Korea and Japan. Each year until the 1970s he worked on commercial projects in Asia to finance his travel and personal photographic work. Although his photographs were exhibited and reproduced in periodicals, Women of Asia (1968) was the only monograph published from this large body of work. Josef Breitenbach died in New York City in 1984.


Josef Breitenbach born 3 April, Munich, Germany.
Serves in German army in World War I.
Breitenbach marries Paula, a childhood friend (divorced 1926). Son, Hans Wolf Breitenbach, born in Nuremberg, Germany, 8 August.
Travels extensively with family wine merchant business; begins regularly photographing places he visits.
Travels to Paris and photographs Eiffel tower and gargoyles of Notre Dame; meets Ruth Snowman who studies photography with Breitenbach beginning in 1934.
Closes family wine business and opens portrait studio in Munich; caters to prominent actors of Munich Theater.
Stores his possessions and leaves Munich; settles in Paris with Hans. Awarded bronze medal at the Exposition internationale de Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland (October); exhibits in Paris at 28. Salon international de la photographie (October) and Librairie Lipschutz (November).
Begins teaching German language photography courses that include: Photography as Art, Optics and Form, Light and Lighting, Color, Modern Materials and Alternative Processes, and Chemistry. Has two exhibitions at the Galerie de la Pléiade, Paris, Joseph Breitenbach: Portraits, paysages, théâtre, a solo exhibition (June) and Groupe annuel des photographes (November); also exhibits at the 29. Salon international de la photographie (October).
Solo exhibition at the Galerie Fernand Nathan, Paris, Exposition de photographies: Portraits, scènes et paysages de Joseph Breitenbach (February); has group exhibitions at the Galerie de la Pléiade, Paris, L'humour et le fantastique par la photographie, Paris, (March) and in London at the London Salon of Photography.
Hans leaves Paris for London (September) and studies electrical engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. Breitenbach works as a Paris contributor for the British International News Agency, London (through 1939); Ruth Snowman is his contact in London. Exhibition at The Louvre, Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris.
Photographs included in the Derde Internationale >>Focus Fotosalon, Amsterdam (September); photographs odors with Professor Henri Devaux (June).
Exhibits odors photographs at the Royal Photographic Society; elected to membership in the Société Française de Photographie et de Cinématographie, Paris.
Elected as Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, London, England (July); interned in work camp (September).
Released from work camp (May); sponsored for immigration to the United States by Anne Henschel, Ruth Snowman's aunt. Sails from Marseille, France (May) on the ship the S.S. Winnipeg to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad; sails from Trinidad to New York City 19 June on the S.S. Acadia and arrives in New York 27 June. Hans Breitenbach marries (July).
Begins U.S. career of commercial photography work for various magazines including Fortune, Collier's, Town and Country, Time, and many others; applies for John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for further aroma studies on film.
Lectures on photography and makes photographs of faculty and students at Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida; teaches and photographs at Black Mountain College Summer Art Institute (17 July-5 August) with Josef Albers and others. Photographs included in group exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, New York (June).
Photographs production of Bertolt Brecht's play The Private Life of the Master Race, New York (June); awarded membership in Kappa Pi Honorary Art Fraternity.
Becomes U.S. citizen; begins teaching at Cooper Union, New York (retires 1966). Group exhibition with the Art Alliance, Philadelphia (March). "Creative Photography" published in The Sketch Book, a publication of the Kappa Pi.
Exhibitions in Lakeland, Florida, Florida Southern College (January), and in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Directors Show, 26th Annual National Exhibition of Advertising and Editorial Art (April).
circa 1948
Solo exhibition in New York at the A-D Gallery (19 April-14 May).
Begins teaching at New School for Social Research, New York City (retires 1975); exhibits with the Art Alliance in Philadelphia (April) and in New York with the Exhibition of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (ASMP); lectures at The Camera Club, New York, "New Trails in Photography."
Has solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, Pictorial Photographs by Joseph Breitenbach (June), at the Brooklyn Museum, Portraits and Landscapes by Joseph Breitenbach (October), and a group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (May).
Included in group exhibitions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Cambridge (February), at the Brooklyn Museum (September), and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in May and November. American Fabrics publishes Breitenbach article, "Photographic Textile Designs." He lectures at Manhattan Camera Club, New York, "New Ways in Photography" (May).
Exhibits with the World Exhibition of Photography, Lucerne, Switzerland; Gentry magazine publishes article, "How Realistic Is Photography?" (spring); lectures at Pictorial Photographers of America, New York, "New Ways in Photography" (February).
Chief of still photography, United Nations Reconstruction Agency, Korea; also travels in Japan.
Solo exhibition at the opening of the Limelight Gallery, New York, Korea (14 May-30 June); slide lectures in New York at the New School, "The Face of Korea" (March) and at Columbia University, "The People of Korea" (October).
Included in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition, The Family of Man (26 January-8 May).
Commercial photography assignments in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), IBM, AT&T, American Red Cross, Time/Life, and many others.
Group exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (November); Breitenbach photographs used in book by Don Faris, To Plow With Hope.
Group exhibitions at Jacksonville Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida, [organized by] The American Society of Magazine Photographers (March), the Newark Museum, (April), and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Photography in the Fine Arts II (May).
Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photography in the Fine Arts III (October); solo exhibition in Orono, Maine, University of Maine, Korea: Photographs by Joseph Breitenbach (November).
Group exhibitions in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts, Photography in the Fine Arts IV (May) and in Hamburg, Germany, World Exhibition of Photography (July).
Solo exhibition of 250 photographs in Munich, Germany, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Wanderung (September); group exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (March).
Group exhibition about Black Mountain College in Johnson City, Tennessee, East Tennessee State University, Carol Reece Museum (April).
Slide lecture at the New York Public Library, "Color in Photography and Painting" (March).
Women of Asia, a Breitenbach book of photographs is published; hospitalized with stomach ulcer (November).
Lectures at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on "Color in Life and Art" (March).
Solo exhibition in Hanover, New Hampshire at Dartmouth College, Hopkins Center Art Galleries (21 October-28 November); slide lecture at Dartmouth College.
Lectures at New York University, "Photographic Journey Through Time" (March).
Solo exhibition at Goethe House New York, Fifty Photos by Josef Breitenbach (27 November-21 December).
Seven Portraits, a portfolio of Breitenbach photographs, is published by Graphics International with an introduction by A. Hyatt Mayor; exhibition at Asia House Gallery, New York (July).
Photographs from Breitenbach's collection are shown in Munich, Germany at the Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Die Sammlung Josef Breitenbach-Geschichte der Photographie (20 July-9 September). The Münchner Stadtmuseum purchases the Breitenbach collection of photographs.
Marries Yaye Togasaki 25 January.
Solo exhibition in Munich, Germany, at the Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Die Stiftung Josef Breitenbach (29 September-16 October); "Josef Breitenbach. Ten Portraits" is included in the publication The Paris Review.
Dies 7 October in New York City.


74.5 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

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


Papers and photographic materials, 1873-1990, of Josef Breitenbach (1896-1984), photographer. Includes correspondence, writings, appointment calendars, exhibition announcements, tearsheets, clippings, publications, photographic materials, audiovisual materials, and memorabilia.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, n.d., 1873-1985, 12 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Correspondence, chronological, n.d., 1924-1983, 3 boxes
  2. Subseries 2: Correspondence, selected, n.d., 1934-1985, 7 boxes
  3. Subseries 3: Family correspondence, n.d., 1873-1984, 2 boxes

Series 2: Biographical materials, n.d., 1885-1988, 9 boxes

Series 3: Writings and photography projects, n.d., 1934-2004, 11 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Writings and photography projects by Breitenbach, n.d., 1934-2004, 10 boxes
  2. Subseries 2: Writings by others, n.d., circa 1950-1978, 1 box

Series 4: Exhibitions, n.d., 1933-1983, 1 box

  1. Subseries 1: Exhibitions by Breitenbach, n.d., 1933-1983, 36 folders
  2. Subseries 2: Exhibitions by other than Breitenbach, n.d., 1936-1976, 8 folders

Series 5: Education files, n.d., 1930s-1975, 4 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Paris, France, 1930s, 7 folders
  2. Subseries 2: Black Mountain College, 1934-1968, 20 folders
  3. Subseries 3: Florida Southern College, 1944-1947, 1 folder
  4. Subseries 4: Cooper Union School, 1947-1967, 9 folders
  5. Subseries 5: New School for Social Research, n.d, 1949-1975, 1 box/22 folders
  6. Subseries 6: Lectures, workshops, seminars, n.d., 1949-1972, 9 folders
  7. Subseries 7: Miscellaneous, n.d., 1950s-1960s, 8 folders

Series 6: Publications, n.d., 1933-1990, 5 boxes

Series 7: Financial, insurance, and legal records, n.d., 1932-1985, 2 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Miscellaneous receipts, n.d, 1932-1983, 5 folders
  2. Subseries 2: Utilities, 1934-1944, 2 folders
  3. Subseries 3: Income and expenses, 1946-1984, 3 folders
  4. Subseries 4: Taxes, 1939-1983, 6 folders
  5. Subseries 5: Banking records, 1935-1984, 12 folders
  6. Subseries 6: Insurance records, n.d., 1950s-1985, 5 folders
  7. Subseries 7: Legal records, 1934-1984, 7 folders

Series 8: Other materials, n.d., 1933-1984, 25 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Reference files, n.d., 1930s-1968, 2 boxes
  2. Subseries 2: Miscellaneous materials, n.d., 1937, 3 boxes
  3. Subseries 3: Oversize materials, n.d., 1930s-1978, 1 box
  4. Subseries 4: Medical records, 1970-1984, 1 box
  5. Subseries 5: Audiovisual materials, n.d., 1938-1970s, 12 boxes
  6. Subseries 6: Artifacts, n.d., 1933, 7 boxes

Series 9: Photographic materials, n.d., 1930-1983, 129 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Negatives, n.d., 1930-1947, 23 boxes
  2. Sub-subseries 1: Glass 8”x10” negatives, n.d., 3 boxes
  3. Sub-subseries 2: Glass 5”x7” negatives, n.d., 1935, 2 boxes
  4. Sub-subseries 3: Glass 4”x5” negatives, n.d., 1938-1947, 1 box
  5. Sub-subseries 4: Glass stereo negatives, n.d., 1930-1939, 17 boxes
  6. Subseries 2: Black and white negatives and transparencies, n.d., 1930-1969, 21 boxes
  7. Sub-subseries 1: Oversize negatives and transparencies, n.d., 1 box
  8. Sub-subseries 2: B/W 8”x10” negatives, n.d., 1 box
  9. Sub-subseries 3: B/W 5”x7” negatives and transparencies, n.d., 1 box
  10. Sub-subseries 4: B/W 4”x5”, 2”x3” and stereo negatives, n.d., 1930-1939, 4 boxes
  11. Sub-subseries 5: B/W 35mm and 120mm negatives, n.d., 1930-1969, 14 boxes
  12. Subseries 3: Color transparencies and negatives, n.d., 1940s-1970s, 29 boxes
  13. Sub-subseries 1: Color 120mm and 4”x5” transparencies with matching contact sheets, n.d., 1950s-1969, 3 boxes
  14. Sub-subseries 2: Color 8”x10” negatives and transparencies, n.d., 1 box
  15. Sub-subseries 3: Color 5”x7” transparencies, n.d., 1940s, 4 boxes
  16. Sub-subseries 4: Color 35mm and 120mm negatives and transparencies cut in strips, n.d., 1952-1966, 3 boxes
  17. Sub-subseries 5: Color 35mm and 120mm negatives and transparencies, individually cut, n.d. , 1 box
  18. Sub-subseries 6: Color 35mm and 120mm mounted transparencies, 1950s-1970s, 17 boxes
  19. Subseries 4: Contact sheets, n.d., 1938-1983, 15 boxes
  20. Sub-subseries 1: B/W contact sheets, n.d., 1 box
  21. Sub-subseries 2: Projects, Asia, 1952-1978, 5 boxes
  22. Sub-subseries 3: Portraits A-Z, n.d., 1938-1983, 9 boxes
  23. Subseries 5: Study prints/work prints, n.d., 1933-1953, 41 boxes

Appendix A: Exhibitions with documentation in the Josef Breitenbach archive

Appendix B: A brief list of notations and inserts found in the date books

Appendix C: Selected Index to Correspondence

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was a gift in 1989 from Yaye Togasaki Breitenbach, the artist's widow.

Processing Information

Arranged and described by Leslie Squyres, 1993-94. Compiled with help from Cynthia Vogt and Kristin Welton. Funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Electronic version of the finding aid created by Leslie Squyres Calmes and Amy Rule, May 1997. The finding aid was updated by Caroline Ross in 2018 and again by Tai Huesgen in 2019.

Josef Breitenbach archive 1873-1990
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff. Updated in 2022 by Elias Larralde [added boxes 194-200]
© 2020
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