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Robert Balcomb collection

Identifier: AG 180

Scope and Contents

The Robert Balcomb Collection is made up of three series including Papers, Photographic materials, and Artifacts. Series one, Papers, contains correspondence, an agreement letter regarding Mortensen materials, a script for a Mortensen film, articles on Mortensen, and metalchrome and pigment process information.

Series two contains photographic materials such as “Mortensen Pigment Samples and Notes,” which are samples given to Balcomb by Myrdith Mortensen, as well as two CDs of “Mortensen Pigment Notes,” which are digital copies of original samples and annotations from Balcomb.

Series three contains a Rolleicord camera given to Balcomb by Mortensen in Laguna Beach, California, in 1956. [Note: film winder is not functional. Inscription on verso “x sync, m bulb” was written by Balcomb.]


  • 1956-circa 1975


Language of Materials

Material in English

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

Robert “Sam” Balcomb (1926-2021) was an artist and portrait photographer who has practiced portrait photography since the mid-1950s. He graduated from the American Academy of Art, Chicago, received his Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of New Mexico, and received his Master of Arts in Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Balcomb was employed by Olympic College in Bremerton, WA specializing in English grammar, technical writing, and public speaking. He was well-known for having studied under William Mortensen from 1956-1957, learning the photographic processes employed by Mortensen and using them in his own photography. Balcomb wrote the book Me and Mortensen: Photography with the Master, published in 2013. This book is written from his point of view as a student of Mortensen and draws conversations with Mortensen’s widow after his death in 1965.


3 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

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


Papers, technical notes, and photographs of Robert “Sam” Balcomb (b. 11 March 1926), photographer and student of William Mortensen from 1956-1957. Photographs were transferred to the CCP fine print collection.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Papers, undated, 1956-circa 1975, 1 box
  2. Series 2: Photographic materials, undated, 3 boxes
  3. Series 3: Artifacts, undated, 1 box

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert Balcomb in 2000 and 2003.

Related Materials

CCP has several archival collections containing materials documenting the life and career of William Mortensen. Researchers are invited to consult:

  1. William Mortensen Archive (AG147)
  2. William Mortensen & George Dunham Collection (AG43)
  3. William Mortensen Miscellaneous Acquisitions Collection (AG191)

In addition, CCP has collections acquired from a number of Mortensen’s students:

  1. Robert Balcomb (AG180)
  2. Anson Beman (AG185)
  3. Richard Bennet (AG191)
  4. R. H. Cochran, Jr. (AG191)
  5. Ralph D. Hosenpud (AG227)
  6. Ben Maxey (AG112)
  7. Grey Silva (AG134)

CCP also has collections related to other photographers from the Pictorialist tradition:

  1. Paul Anderson (AG40)
  2. Aubrey Bodine (AG139)
  3. Adolf Fassbender (AG168)


  • About. Robert Balcomb Photography. Accessed 22 June 2020.

Processing Information

Collection processed and finding aid updated in June 2016 by Meghan Jordan in June 2016. Finding aid was again updated by Tai Huesgen in June 2020.

Robert Balcomb collection 1956-circa 1975
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
© 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