Hans Namuth papers
Scope and Contents
The Hans Namuth papers contain materials spanning the Namuth’s photographic career, which are contained in seven series: Correspondence, Diaries, Index cards, Printed materials, Book projects, Photographic materials, and Miscellany.
Series one, Correspondence, consists of communication with various publications, organizations, and individuals spanning 1954-1991. This series also contains some office files, including biographies, pictures, and materials related to lectures.
Series two, Diaries, contains one desk diary and one diary related to the Spanish Civil War.
Series three consists of index cards used by Namuth, organized alphabetically into three boxes.
Series four, Printed materials, is made up of four subseries. Subseries one, Books, contains books with Namuth photos, citations, and inscriptions, as well as books on the Spanish Civil War. Subseries two consists of magazines with photographs by Namuth. Subseries three, Miscellaneous, contains various publications, journals, and papers. Subseries four contains tear sheets.
Series five, Book projects, consists of three subseries. Subseries one contains prints, negatives, and papers related to Early American Tools by Marshall B. Davidson and Hans Namuth. Subseries 2, Spanish Civil War, contains photographic materials from Namuth’s photographic coverage of the war, as well as materials related to and copies of Spanisches Tagebuch 1936, by Namuth and Georg Reisner. Subseries 3, Los Todos Santeros, is made up of prints, negatives, contact sheets, and papers related to Namuth’s book of the same title.
Series six, Photographic materials, is the largest series in the collection and contains eight subseries. Subseries one, Actors/directors/producers/theater/movies, consists of work prints related to these subjects. Subseries two, Architects, is made up of two sub-subseries: Negatives/contact sheets and Work prints. Subseries three, Art dealers/critics/gallery and museum directors, includes work prints of these subjects. Subseries four, Artists, is made up of three sub-subseries: Color negatives/transparencies, Work prints, and Separation negatives. Subseries five, Musicians/composers/singers, contains work prints of these subjects. Subseries six, Non-artists, is made up of eights sub-subseries: Color negatives/transparencies; Black and white for projection; Negatives/contact sheets; Color negatives/transparencies; Envelopes, articles, and product information found with negatives; and Work prints. Subseries seven, Writers, contains material related to this subject. Subseries eight, Miscellaneous work [commercial/editorial/travel/personal] is made up of eleven sub-subseries: New York Times/New York Times Magazine; New York Times/Architect Record/House & Garden; House Beautiful/miscellaneous editorial; Holiday Magazine; Holiday Magazine/Harper’s Bazaar; Fortune/Better Homes/Show/Vogue; Miscellaneous commercial and editorial work [color transparencies, b/w contact sheets]; Willie Morris, Yazoo City, MS; Travel; Mounted prints, color transparencies; and Binders, envelopes, and slide boxes.
Series seven, Miscellany, contains awards and Brussels’s World’s Fair plywood panels.
- 1898, 1941-1991
Language of Materials
Material in English German
Conditions Governing Access
Access to this collection requires an appointment with the Volkerding Study Center. Please note that this collection is on loan to the Center for Creative Photography.
Conditions Governing Use
This collection is on loan to the Center for Creative Photography. CCP does not own the collection contents nor the copyright to materials. Please reach out to CCP-RefDesk@email.arizona.edu with any questions regarding access and use of the collection.
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
Photographer and filmmaker Hans Namuth (1915-1990) specialized in portraiture. Born March 17, 1915, in Essen, Germany, Hans Heinz Oskar Adolf Rudolf Namuth was the eldest son of Adolf Friedrich Heinrich August and Anna Weisskirch Namuth. His youth spent in Essen, Namuth developed a keen interest in politics after joining the Germany Youth Movement in 1927 and a deep fondness for art and literature while working for the bookstore Severin (1931 – 1933). He contributed writings to a variety of literary journals and held dreams of one day directing theater, a dream he carried into his career as a photographer.
In 1932, the politically bent seventeen-year-old joined a leftist group. Within a year, Namuth was interrogated then detained by the Nazi party for handing out anti-Hitler pamphlets. On September 20, 1933, with the help of his father and a temporary exit visa, Namuth fled to Paris. Resourcefulness and charisma worked in his favor, as the young German refugee rather quickly advanced from selling the daily newspaper Paris Soir in the city streets to photographing freelance for a number of media agencies. Namuth made fast friends with Paris-based literary figures, photographers, and filmmakers, most notably André Friedmann, better known as Robert Capa; Paul Falkenberg, with whom Namuth would collaborate on several films over the course of his career; and Georg Reisner, a fellow German who first introduced Namuth to photography and worked together with him for the next five years.
From 1933 to 1939, Namuth made a number of travels in and out of Paris to destinations like the Pyrenees, Greece, and Spain. Namuth and Reisner arrived in Barcelona in July 1936, just as the Spanish Civil War began. The pair travelled all over the country – from Valencia and Guadalajara to Toledo and Extremadura – to photograph the war at different fronts. The duo’s documentations of the war were published first in the French magazine, Vu, and later were also featured in a number of other publications around the world. This particular portfolio of images, visually direct and descriptive of the war, proved to be of cardinal significance to Namuth’s practice and reputation as a photographer.
In 1939, the political tides in Europe dramatically shifted as France and Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. By this time, Namuth had returned to Paris, where authorities announced the required internment of German males living in France. He enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in December of that year, only to be demobilized in June with the occupied France – Germany armistice agreement. Still a refugee without an official passport, and a German national at risk of being detained by authorities, Namuth went on the run. From Marseilles to Martinique, next to St. Thomas then San Juan, Puerto Rico. With the aid of friends, composer Samuel L.M. Barlow and journalist Varian Fry, he acquired an American visa and immigrated to the United States in 1941, working odd jobs and gaining citizenship in 1943. Namuth enlisted again, this time with the United States Army, assisting with military intelligence during the latter half of World War II (1943 – 1945).
After the war, Namuth settled in New York with his wife, Carmen Herrara (m. 1943), her two sons from a previous marriage, his daughter Tessa (b. 1946), and son Peter (b. 1947). While working as a secretary for Tesumat, Inc., he resumed classes in 1946 with German photographer Josef Breitenbach, whose tutelage Namuth first sought out in Paris, and then with Russian photographer Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research. Brodovitch, at the time also the art director for Harper’s Bazaar, was Namuth’s point of entry into commercial and editorial photography in the United States. Over the next several decades, Namuth took commissions from such media outlets as Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful, the New York Times, Travel, and Vogue. During this time, he worked in Guatemala, too, returning there frequently to photograph the inhabitants of Todos Santos.
Namuth also attributes his entry into the American art scene to Brodovitch, who encouraged him to make the acquaintance of Jackson Pollock. From summer to fall of 1950, he photographed Pollock in the act of painting, with brush and bucket in hand, stepping into the canvas laid out on the floor of the artist’s studio. Struck by Pollock’s dance-like movements, Namuth believed film might be better suited to portray the artistic process. He suggested Pollock transfer his process to glass for filming, in order for Namuth to portray him painting from many conceivable angles: below, above, beside. The collection of Namuth’s photographs and film became iconic, instrumental in shaping Pollock’s public identity and legacy, fueling his persona as “artistic genius,” and providing a unique understanding of this American Modernist painter in action.
With the publication of his Pollock portraits in Portfolio and Art News the following year, Namuth’s own reputation grew, as did his network of contacts in the American art scene. “Namuth was always there,” noted renowned New York art dealer Leo Castelli. By 1958, his project Photographs of Seventeen American Painters was exhibited at Stable Gallery in New York, and represented the United States at the World’s Fair in Brussels. Namuth committed to a studio in New York in 1950 and full time to a career in photojournalism, with especial attention to portraiture. He spent the next forty years photographing figures in the creative industry: artists, designers and architects, writers, collectors and dealers, directors. His subjects included Abstract Expressionist, Minimalist, and Pop artists such as Willem de Kooning, John Cage, Josef Albers, Peter Blake, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, John Steinbeck, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, among others; he often photographed these artists in their working environments. He is noted for facilitating a relaxed atmosphere and encouraging comfortable composure in his subjects, resulting in a sincere depiction of the artist at work. He continued to photograph artists until the late 1980s, his portraits creating a testament to America’s active art world in the second half of the twentieth century.
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Metadata Rights Declarations
- License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.
The Collection is arranged into the following series:
Series 1: Correspondence, n.d., 1954-1991, 4 boxes
Series 2: Diaries, n.d., 2 boxes
Series 3: Index cards, n.d., 3 boxes
Series 4: Printed materials, n.d., 1898, 1960-1991, 39 boxes
- Subseries 1: Books, n.d., 21 boxes
- Subseries 2: Magazines with photographs by Namuth, n.d., 1945-1991, 15 boxes
- Subseries 3: Miscellaneous, n.d., 1898, 1960-1991, 1 box
- Subseries 4: Tear sheets, n.d., 2 boxes
Series 5: Book projects, n.d., 1978-1986, 10 boxes
- Subseries 1: Early American Tools, n.d., 1 box
- Subseries 2: Spanish Civil War, n.d., 1986, 4 boxes
- Subseries 3: Los Todos Santeros, n.d., 1978, 5 boxes
Series 6: Photographic materials, n.d., 1926, 1941-1991, 8 drawers, 132 boxes
- Subseries 1: Actors/directors/producers/theater/film, n.d., 2 boxes
- Subseries 2: Architects, n.d., 1968, 7 boxes
- Sub-subseries 1: Negatives/contact sheets, n.d., 1968, 5 boxes
- Sub-subseries 2: Work prints, n.d., 2 boxes
- Subseries 3: Art dealers/critics/gallery and museum directors, n.d., 1 box
- Subseries 4: Artists, n.d., 1926, 1957-1990, 7 drawers, 71 boxes
- Sub-subseries 1: Color negatives/transparencies, n.d., 1926, 1958-1990, 7 drawers
- Sub-subseries 2: Work prints, n.d., 1957, 70 boxes
- Sub-subseries 3: Separation negatives, n.d., 1 box
- Subseries 5: Musicians/composers/singers, n.d., 1 box
- Subseries 6: Non-artists, n.d., 1941-1990, 1 drawer, 29 boxes
- Sub-subseries 1: Color negatives/transparencies, n.d., 1960-1990, 1 drawer
- Sub-subseries 2: Black and white for projection, n.d., 1 drawer
- Sub-subseries 3: Negatives/contact sheets, n.d., 1941-1988, 24 boxes
- Sub-subseries 4: Color negatives/transparencies, n.d., 4 boxes
- Sub-subseries 5: Envelopes, articles, product information, n.d., 1 box
- Sub-subseries 6: Work prints, n.d., 1 box
- Subseries 7: Writers, n.d., 2 boxes
- Subseries 8: Miscellaneous work [commercial/editorial/travel/personal], n.d., 1953-1991, 17 boxes
- Sub-subseries 1: New York Times/New York Times Magazine, n.d., 1966-1968, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 2: New York Times/Architect Record/House & Garden, n.d., 1968-1975, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 3: House Beautiful/miscellaneous editorial, n.d., circa 1965-1973, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 4: Holiday Magazine, n.d., 1961-1972, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 5: Holiday Magazine/Harper’s Bazaar, n.d., 1958-1960, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 6: Fortune/Better Homes/Show/Vogue, n.d., 1964-1978, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 7: Miscellaneous commercial and editorial work, n.d., 1953-1971, 2 boxes
- Sub-subseries 8: Willie Morris, Yazoo City, MS, n.d., 1967, 1 box
- Sub-subseries 9: Travel, n.d., 2 boxes
- Sub-subseries 10: Mounted prints, color transparencies, n.d., 1 box
- Sub-subseries 11: Binders, envelopes, and slide boxes, n.d., 1969-1991, 5 boxes
Series 7: Miscellany, n.d., 2 boxes
- NOTE: Box numbers 55 to 60; 166 - not used
The collection was loaned to the Center for Creative Photography in July 1994. CCP does not legally own the collection materials or the copyright to Hans Namuth.
A preliminary inventory of the collection was prepared by A. Rule in February 2000. The finding aid was updated by Tai Huesgen in September 2020.
- Hans Namuth papers 1898, 1941-1991
- Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff
- © 2020
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- Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
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- Finding aid encoded in English