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Ralph Steiner miscellaneous acquisitions collection

Identifier: AG 142

Scope and Contents

The collection was acquired from various sources. The collection consists of five subgroups.

Subgroup one contains various production records, 1968-1992, of The Joy of Seeing, including correspondences and project summaries.

Subgroup two contains books from Steiner’s library, many with annotations by Steiner or the author.

Subgroup three contains 25 letters, 1972-1977, with Louis P. Savenelli and camera equipment given to Savenelli by Steiner.

Subgroup four contains one postcard, 1974, from Steiner to B.A. King regarding a visit from Lee Witkin.

Subgroup five contains photocopies of 21 letters, 1974-1985, between Del Zogg and Steiner regarding various exhibitions and presentations.


  • 1968-1992

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

Ralph Steiner (1899-1986) was known for his still photography and filmmaking. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and in 1921 earned a degree in chemistry from Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, where he also began studying photography. He moved to New York City and was enrolled in the Clarence H. White School of Photography between 1921-1922 and worked at the Manhattan Photogravure Company and as a freelance photographer for magazine editorials and advertisements.

Steiner met photographer Paul Strand in 1928 and was encouraged by Strand to join the Film and Photo League in New York. In his photographs, Steiner was influenced by the sharp detail of 1930s photography, as well as pictorialist styles. He also began making films in the late 1920s, including H2O, a short art film, in 1929, moving toward social activism and documentary filmography in the 1930s. Steiner worked alongside Strand as the cinematographer on Pare Lorentz’s 1936 documentary film, The Plow That Broke the Plains, about storms in the Dust Bowl. In 1938 Steiner founded American Documentary Films, Inc. with Willard Van Dyke, with whom he co-directed the social documentary film The City, about New York for the 1939 World’s Fair.

Steiner worked for five years in Hollywood in the 1940s before returning to New York and to freelance and editorial photography and filmography in 1948. During the 1970s he worked on a series of films titled The Joy of Seeing and published a 1978 book on photography, A Point of View. Steiner moved to Vermont in 1970 and began photographing clouds, a pursuit that would last almost 20 years and would take him from Maine to Oaxaca, Mexico. Steiner published a book of these photographs, In Pursuit of Clouds, in 1985, shortly before his death in 1986.


1 Linear Foot

Metadata Rights Declarations

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


Miscellaneous papers and camera equipment (1968-1992) documenting the career of Ralph Steiner (1899-1986), photographer and filmmaker.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Subgroup 1: Records for The Joy of Seeing, n.d., 1968-1992, 4 folders
  2. Subgroup 2: Books, n.d., 1 box
  3. Subgroup 3: Correspondence with Louis P. Savenelli, n.d., 1972-1977, 1 box
  4. Subgroup 4: Correspondence with B.A. King, 1974, 1 postcard
  5. Subgroup 5: Correspondence with Del Zogg, n.d., 1974-1985, 6 items

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Each group of materials in this collection was acquired from a different source. This is an artificial collection, compiled to document the career of Steiner from a variety of perspectives. Subgroups were gifts of Barbara Van Dyke, A. Olson, Louis P. Savenelli, Tony King of Black Ice Publishers, and Del Zogg, respectively.

Related Materials

AG 68: Ralph Steiner collection.


  • Ralph Steiner Is Dead; Was Still Photographer. The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 14 July 1986, Section B, page 6, Accessed 09 September 2020.
  • Ralph Steiner. The J. Paul Getty Museum, J. Paul Getty Trust, Accessed 09 September 2020.
  • Steiner, Ralph. MoCP, Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago,,+Ralph&record=12. Accessed 09 September 2020.

Processing Information

Initial inventory compiled in August 1992.

Finding aid updated by Paige Hilman in January 2018 and by Tai Huesgen in September 2020.

Ralph Steiner miscellaneous acquisitions collection 1968-1992
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