Barbara Morgan collection
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of miscellaneous materials documenting Morgan’s life. The collection includes photographic portraits of Morgan, newspaper clippings, a Christie’s Auction House listing, and silver gelatin prints.
- circa 1927-1989
Language of Materials
Material in English
Conditions Governing Access
To access materials from this collection, please contact CCP-RefDesk@email.arizona.edu
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
Barbara Morgan (born July 8, 1900) is an American photographer whose artistic inclinations also included drawings, watercolors and paintings. Morgan’s work primarily focused on photographs of modern dancers such as Martha Graham and Charles Weidman. She grew up on a peach ranch in Southern California and attended UCLA from 1919 to 1923; her training at that institution was based on the principle of art synthesis made famous by Arthur Wesley Dow. In 1925 Morgan officially joined the UCLA faculty and shortly after that she married Willard D. Morgan, a writer and photographer.
Morgan worked primarily in the Southwestern United States and in New York City. Her work in the Southwest focused on photographs of herself and Willard in various locations such as the Grand Canyon and the Hopi mesas and canyons; these photographs would later go on to appear alongside Willard’s articles as illustrations. In the summer of 1930 the couple moved to New York City in response to a job offer that Willard had received. The bustle of the city was very different from Morgan’s experience in the Southwest and a more abstract bent can be seen in her work after her move to the East Coast. In 1931 Morgan began to experiment with the technical and dark room aspects of photography, further refining her skill with help from Willard. Morgan became an early member of the Photo League in New York.
In 1935 Morgan began to focus her work and energies on the American Modern Dance Movement. A performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company showed her just how important modern dance could be socially and politically. In 1941 Morgan published her book Martha Graham: Sixteen Dances in Photographs. Graham and Morgan struck up a friendship that lasted more than sixty years and was mutually beneficial for both. In 1945 her photographs were exhibited in La Danza Moderna Norte-Americana: Fotografias por Barbara Morgan; the exhibition began at the Museum of Modern Art and then embarked on a South American tour.
Modern dance was not the only area of interest for Morgan and she desired to explore photography further and on a deeper level. She felt that light energy was an essential component of dance and she sought to document such energy by creating gestural light drawings. Morgan also documented many children through her work in children’s camps, schools, and colleges. These photos would eventually comprise her work titled Summer’s Children. Morgan sought to document life and did not believe in restricting herself to the title of either painter or photographer. In addition to her work she was also on the faculty at Black Mountain College and lectured nationally for more than fifty years. Morgan was a co-founder of Aperture Magazine. Morgan passed away on August 17th 1992.
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Metadata Rights Declarations
- License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.
Papers and photographic materials relating to the life of Barbara Morgan (1900-1992), photographer. Includes correspondence, tearsheets, clippings, promotional leaflets, and reprints of writing.
The Collection is arranged into the following series:
- Series 1: Miscellaneous materials, circa 1927-1989, 4 folders/.25 linear feet
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection was a gift of Morgan’s son, Lloyd Morgan in 1989.
The collection was processed circa 1989 by the Center’s Archivists. The finding aid was updated by Phoenix Smithey in 2017 and by Tai Huesgen in 2021.
- Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). Department of Film (Organization)
- Barbara Morgan collection circa 1927-1989
- Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
- © 2021
- 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