Jim Dow (1942- ) is an American photographer and educator based in Massachusetts. The core of the collection consists of 1226 single-image photographs, 232 multi-image panoramic prints, and approximately 1905 film negatives, representing black-and-white and color images taken by Dow from 1966 to 2022. Subjects include: 20th century U.S. vernacular culture and landscapes, including roadside architecture, courthouses and jails, and small business interiors; food trucks, stadiums, and athletic fields around the world; and interiors and exteriors of private clubs, libraries, and churches and museums in cities around the world. Photographs often include cultural expressions such as advertising, murals, bar decor, and graffiti. Dow's U.S. work focuses mainly on New England, the South, and the West, with a single-state project on North Dakota. Other images are from Argentina, Canada, England, Mexico, Portugal, Scotland, and Uruguay. Also included is a series of commissioned work. The professional papers comprise teaching slides, course readers, syllabi, and digital files, as well as art gallery ephemera. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
The core of the collection consists of 1458 single-image photographs, 232 panoramic prints, and approximately 1905 film negatives of black-and-white and color images taken by Jim Dow over the course of his career from 1966 to 2022. They document his travels across much of the U.S., and in Argentina, Canada, England, Mexico, Portugal, Scotland, and Uruguay. The black-and-white images represent Dow's earliest work, after which he transitioned to shooting in color with an 8x10 inch view camera.
Dow is best known for his studies of 20th century American vernacular culture, roadside architecture, and landscapes; for his multi-panel panoramas of sports stadiums and athletic fields, chiefly in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and England; and for his images of the architecture and interiors of courthouses, jails, private clubs, libraries, and large public buildings such as churches, museums, and civic buildings in cities around the world.
The earliest photographs in the collection were taken in almost every region of the lower 48 states, beginning around 1966 and continuing through 2022. Starting out in black-and-white then transitioning to mostly color work in the mid-1970s, Dow has documented small towns and roadside attractions, highways and back roads, well-worn business façades, and gathering places such as barbecue joints, coffee shops, bars, diners, and event halls. Images from the Northern Plains appear frequently, as do images from California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. Dow was also commissioned to document the state of North Dakota in the 1980s. Keeping to the theme of road trips, the collection also includes a series on barbecue, taco, and other food trucks in the U.S., Mexico, and South America. Regardless of location, many of Dow's photographs include cultural expressions such as outdoor advertising, murals, neon signs, handpainted signs, sculptures, bar decor, and graffiti; people are rarely present.
The three stadiums series feature sports venues from across the U.S., Canada, England, Mexico, Scotland, and Portugal, and comprise single-image color prints as well as multi-image compositions printed in large panoramic format ranging in size from 16x26 inches to 17x59 inches. Spectators are present in many of these images.
Also in the collection is a smaller series of photographic prints representing Dow's commissioned work (1985-2008), chiefly taken at New England universities and private schools such as MIT, Yale, Tufts, Vassar, and Phillips Academy. Additional commissioned work images are found in negative format.
The professional papers document two of Dow's spheres of activity integral to his own photography career: teaching and art gallery work. These are represented by a large vertical file of paper ephemera from New York City commercial art galleries (1990s-2019); and a large series of teaching materials, which include course readers, syllabi, a set of approximately 130,000 slides, and digital files, visual as well as textual, related to Dow's photography and art courses (1980s-2019). Among the slide sets are two groups documenting holdings in the Canadian Center for Architecture and exhibit installations at the Photography Resource Center in Boston.
These materials form multiple installments of Jim Dow's archive at Duke University. Additions of photographic prints and other professional papers are anticipated in 2023-2024.