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Ylla archive

Identifier: AG 138

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, photographs, books, and other papers. The bulk of the correspondence in the collection, dating from 1954-1955, is from Charles Rado to Ylla and concerns commercial photography. Other correspondence and papers date from 1955 and are primarily concerned with Ylla's death. The clippings include articles written by Ylla, articles illustrated with her photographs, book reviews, and posthumous accounts of her life and work. The manuscripts include captions for Ylla's photographs, maquettes for her books and drafts of various stories. The photographs in the collection include a large number of animal photographs and a small number of portraits made by Ylla, and some portraits of Ylla by Ergy Landau and other photographers. The books in the collection include English and foreign language editions of Ylla's many publications.

While the collection does contain photographs made while Ylla lived in Paris, there are no papers or records of her life and work prior to her arrival in the United States in 1940, and very little material related to her work between 1940 and 1954.


  • 1937 - 1985


Language of Materials

Material in English French

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

Ylla was a photographer and photojournalist known for her work with animals and development of the genre of animal photography. Born Camilla Koffler in Vienna, Austria in 1911 to Romanian and Croatian Hungarian national parents, she traveled with her mother during World War I before going to a German boarding school in Budapest in 1919. In 1926 she rejoined her mother in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where she studied sculpture and art. In 1931 Ylla moved to Paris to study art at the Académie Colarossi and worked as an assistant to photographer Ergy Landau. In the 1930s Ylla began taking photographs of animals, which were successfully exhibited, leading her to open a studio specializing in animal portraiture. In 1937 Ylla published her first books, which were small collections of cat and dog photographs titled Yllas Dog Fancies, Chats par Ylla, and Chiens par Ylla. She also collaborated with evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley on his book, Animal Language, in 1937.

In 1940-1941 she obtained a visa to immigrate to the US with the assistance of the Museum of Modern Art; she opened a studio in New York and continued to photograph animals, publishing books containing her photographs. In 1952 she traveled to Africa and spent six months photographing in Kenya and Uganda for a book titled Animals in Africa, moving away from her previous practice of photographing animals in zoos and in her studio in order to photograph them in their natural habitat.

In 1954 Ylla traveled to India for seven months, where she attended the Dasara festival in 1954 at the invitation of the Maharaja of Mysore; she was later invited to attend the annual festival in Bharatpur in 1955 by the Maharaja of Bharatpur. It was here she fell from a jeep while photographing a bullock cart race on March 28, 1955; she died of her injuries two days later.

Two books were published based on her photographs from India: Animals in India and The Little Elephant. Another seven books of her work were published posthumously by her photo agent Charles Rado, who continued to promote Ylla’s work until his own death in 1970.


Born Camilla Koffler in Vienna, Austria, to Rumanian- and Croatian-Hungarian parents.
Rejoined her mother in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Studied art in Belgrade.
Studied art in Paris for six months.
Began study of sculpture in Paris; began work as an assistant to the photographer Ergy Landau in her Paris portrait studio.
Published first books, Yllas Dog Fancies, Chats par Ylla, and Chiens par Ylla; collaborated on Julian Huxley’s Animal Language.
Left France for the United States, after obtaining a visa with the help of the Museum of Modern Art.
Made a 6,000-mile trip through Africa; with her mother, Ylla was a passenger in a small plane which crashed into the sea off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, July 8. Her mother and a second passenger died in the accident; Ylla and the pilot were rescued.
Arrived in India, September 7.
Injured while photographing a bullock cart race in Bharatpur, India, March 28. Ylla died a few days later, March 30.


8 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

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


Papers, photographic materials, and publications, 1937-1985, of the photographer Ylla (born Camilla Koffler, 1911-1955). Includes correspondence, writings, biographical information, clippings, photographs, transparencies, and publications. The bulk of the collection documents Ylla’s career as an animal photographer.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Biographical materials, n.d., circa 1940-1955, 5 folder
  2. Series 2: Correspondence, 1954-1991, 5 folder

Series 3: Publications, n.d., 1937-2005, 4 boxes

  1. Subseries 1: Book reviews, n.d., 1954-1959, 4 folders
  2. Subseries 2: Magazine articles, n.d., 13 folders
  3. Subseries 3: Books, n.d., 1937-2005, 1 box
  4. Subseries 4: Model releases, n.d., 1 box
  1. Series 4: Photographs, n.d., 1937-1968, 15 boxes
  2. Appendix A: Books published by Ylla, or by her estate
  3. Appendix B: Other books with Ylla photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Ylla collection was purchased in 1992 from Pryor Dodge, Ylla's godchild and heir, with additional donations accruing in the years since then.


  • Diamond, Wendy. Eyes on the Wild Side with the Legendary Ylla. Animal Fair, Animal Fair, 28 December 2001, Accessed 17 September 2020.
  • Dodge, Pryor. Ylla., Pryor Dodge, Accessed 17 September 2020.

Processing Information

Processed by Leon Zimlich Oct-Nov 1992. Accruals added by A. Rule, July 2006. Finding aid updated by Paloma Phelps in 2017 and by Tai Huesgen in 2020.

Ylla archive 1937 - 1985
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