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Mitchell Payne archive

Identifier: AG 49

Scope and Contents

The collection has been divided into Papers and Photographic materials.


Series one: Papers, 1970 1977. Contains biographical information, correspondence, project files, and printed materials relating to Payne's brief career. The papers document his publications, photojournalistic assignments, exhibitions, and employment endeavors from 1970 74. The project files contain limited information on his major photographic essays, Lisa, Hospital Pictures, High School Youth, Tammy and American Snapshots.

This collection contains little information on his personal life or photographic activities before 1970 or after 1974.

Photographic Materials

Series 2 contains the bulk of the collection, which is photographic materials in a variety of formats negatives, contact sheets, color transparencies, and dye transfer materials. Negatives and contact sheets are primarily 35 mm. black and white, although there are some 6x6 cm., 6x9 cm., 4x5 in. and color negatives. Subjects include Payne's photographic essays, Strippers, Lisa, High School Youth, Tammy and Neurosurgeons; family and friends; and some commercial work including architectural studies done for Design and Environment.

Sub-series one: Contact sheets, 1969-1976. Mostly from 35 mm. black and white negatives. Contact sheets exist for Payne's photographic essays, Hospital Pictures, Lisa, and High School Youth. Also included are many sheets with photographs of family, friends, vacations, children, parades, and Payne himself. There are family portraits of Payne's wife, Linda Montano; brother, Nettleton Payne, and sister in law, Penn; niece, Elizabeth; and parents, Mildred and Nettleton Payne. Some contact sheets are missing. Contact sheets and negatives have been arranged according to Payne's own system. Most are numbered sequentially, (i.e. number 1 negative set was printed on number 1 contact sheet), however, not all contact sheets and negatives have a corresponding set, and there are gaps in the sequence. Duplicates are filed together. Contact sheets without numbers are filed after those with numbers. Title and date of contact sheets (when known) is noted on negative envelopes.

Sub-series two: Personal photographs, circa 1880-1975. Contains black and white and some color photographs. Most are commercially processed photographs of Payne and his family and friends at weddings, parties, and at leisure. Personal photographs are also found in Series: Contact sheets and Series: Negatives.

Sub-series three: Negatives, 1969-circa 1976. Mostly 35 mm. black and white. Negatives are stored in envelopes, most of which contain handwritten annotations regarding subject matter and date. There are more sets of negatives than contact sheets. Skips in numerical sequence indicate that some negatives may be missing. There is one box of unnumbered and sometimes unidentified negatives, consisting primarily of places and people.

Sub-series four: Transparences, 1968-1977. Consists of mounted and unmounted, black and white, color, and color copy transparencies of photographs from six of Payne's photographic essays. Most are from Hospital Places and American Snapshots. There are a few unidentified slides.

Sub-series five: Dye transfer materials, circa 1971-1977. Consists of six sets of dye transfer tests which contain handwritten and typed notes, test strips, graphs, charts, work prints, masks, and separation negatives. There are also matrices and negatives from his American Snapshots project, ca.1977.


  • circa 1940-1977


Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish from materials in this collection must be obtained from Linda Montano. Please email for additional information.

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

Mitchell Payne was born on March 31, 1944 in Shawnee Mission, Kan. He attended Monmouth College (B.A., 1966), the University of Missouri at Kansas (1967), a Presbyterian seminary in Marin County, Calif., and the Rochester Institute of Technology (M.F.A., 1971).

While in Rochester, Payne worked on a number of photographic essays including Lisa, the story of a young blind girl, Strippers, and Hospital Pictures, his graduate thesis on neurosurgeons at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Payne moved to San Francisco, Calif. in the summer of 1971, where Hospital Pictures was exhibited at Focus Gallery in 1972. The same series of photographs was later published in Physician's World as "Neurosurgeons in Action" (1973). During the same period, Payne completed two independent assignments, one for West and the other for West and the other for Design and Environment. Payne was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1973 which resulted in the photographic essay, High School Youth. Payne (with collaborator Ken Graves) was again awarded a NEA grant in 1976 to compile material for American Snapshots, a book (1977) and later an exhibition (1978).

Payne was an active freeland and commercial photographer, and taught photography classes for both the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and the University of California. In 1977, Payne returned to Kansas and began working for the family firm, Morrison, Gregg, and Mitchell Grain. At age 33, Payne died August 19, 1977 from a gunshot wound inflicted by another individual.


6 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

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


Papers and photographic materials, ca.1940-1977, of Mitchell Payne (1944-1977), photographer. The bulk of the collection documents his student and professional work in Rochester, N.Y. and San Francisco, Calif., from 1944 to 1974, including his Hospital Pictures and American Snapshots projects.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Papers
  2. Subseries 1: Biographical materials, 1970-1974
  3. Subseries 2: Correspondence, 1971-1977
  4. Subseries 3: Project files, 1969-1977
  5. Subseries 4: Printed materials, 1970-1973
  6. Series 2: Photographic Materials
  7. Subseries 1: Contact sheets, 1969-1976
  8. Subseries 2: Personal photographs, circa 1880-1976
  9. Subseries 3: Negatives, 1969-circa 1976
  10. Subseries 4: Transparencies, 1968-1977
  11. Subseries 5: Dye transfer materials, 1971-1977

Custodial History

This collection was donated to the Center by the photographer's ex wife, Linda Montano, in 1981.


Additional photographs were donated by Linda Montano in 2013 and 2014.

Separated Materials

Master prints by Payne and Payne's collection of photographs by others (including Bill Owens, Ken Graves, Richard Stocken, Janet Applebaum, and Linda Montano) were transferred to the Center's Fine Print Collection.

Appendix A: Descriptions of Selected Photographic Essays

Lisa (Rochester, N.Y., 1969-72)

Payne worked on this photo essay about an active, young, blind girl while a graduate student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He photographed Lisa extensively at home, school, and play. Payne wanted to record her relationships, and there are many images of Lisa with family, friends, and teachers. Payne submitted images from this essay to Life in 1971, but was told the project lacked drama.

Hospital Pictures (Rochester, N.Y., 1971-72)

Payne began this project in Jan. 1971 as an examination of the characteristics of the staff and patients of a large, modern hospital. He had planned to photograph two hospitals, but eventually restricted his essay to one neurosurgeon, Dr. Duke, a resident physician associated with Strong Memorial Hospital. Payne felt that his early photographs in this series were too sentimental, and later began to document aspects of the impersonal nature of the doctor patient relationship.

Focus Gallery (San Francisco, Calif.) exhibited these photographs as Hospital Pictures in Mar. 1972. This essay was published as "Neurosurgeons in Action" in the July 1973 issue of Physician's World. The Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, Ariz.) exhibited the photographs in 1977.

High School Youth (San Francisco, Calif., 1973-75)

Payne received an NEA grant of $3,900 in 1973 to do a photographic essay on adolescents in high school. This series includes images of teenagers at school, home, and at leisure. There is no evidence that this work was ever exhibited or published, though Black Star, a New York photo agency, expressed interest after hearing of the NEA award.

Tammy (San Francisco, Calif., 1973-76)

This project is thought to have grown from Payne's essay on high school youth. Tammy was a high school student and belly dancer from San Francisco, Calif. Numerous photographs show Tammy bathing, dressing, eating, dating, relaxing, socializing, exercising, and dancing. Tammy was exhibited at the Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, Ariz.) Jan. Mar. 1984. There is no evidence of publication.

American Snapshots (California, 1976-77)

In 1976, Payne and Ken Graves were awarded a NEA grant to document American life. They sought photographs which required no captions or descriptions. From thousands of snapshots, they chose 112 which were eventually published and later exhibited as American Snapshots.

Miscellaneous small projects (1969-76)

Payne worked on many smaller projects from 1969 76. These included essays on the Drumgooles, a poor black family in Rochester, N.Y.; senior citizens; a local zoo; childless couples; a traveling home care nurse (The Nurse's Story); a Berkeley, Calif. women's art show; "The House as Symbol", for Design and Environment; and the Women's Dress for Greater Freedom demonstration in 1972.

Appendix B: Index to Selected Projects

American Snapshots Papers: project files (AG49:1/4) Photographic materials: transparencies (AG49:22/6); dye transfer materials (AG49:23/7,8)

High School Youth Papers: project files (AG49:1/5) Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:4); negatives (AG49:16); transparencies (AG49:21, 22/4)

Hospital Pictures "Neurosurgeons in Action" Papers: project files (AG49:1/6); printed materials (AG49:1/12) Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:2, 3) "The House as Symbol" Papers: correspondence Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:3); negatives (AG49:14)

Lisa Papers: correspondence; project files (AG49:1/7) Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:2, 3); negatives (AG49:8,9,10,11,12,20,21); transparencies (AG49:22/2)

Nurse's Story Papers: correspondence Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:3); negatives (AG49:13, 14)

Strippers Papers: project files (AG49:1/8) Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:2); negatives (AG49:7,8,11); transparencies (AG49:21,22/1)

Tammy Papers: project files (AG49:1/10) Photographic materials: contact sheets (AG49:4,5); negatives (AG49:18,19,20); transparencies (AG49:21,22/5)

Processing Information

This collection arrived at the Center in 1981. An initial inventory of the collection was conducted in 1981. Judith Leckrone processed the collection in 1984 and final arrangement and description by record types were completed in 1985.. The finding aid was updated by Alexis Peregoy and CCP staff in 2017.

Finding aid for the Mitchell Payne archive circa 1940-1977
Finding aid updated by CCP staff
© 2017
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