Jim Dow (1942- ) is an American photographer and educator based in Massachusetts. The core of the collection consists of 1462 photographic prints and approximately 1905 film negatives, representing black-and-white and color images taken by Dow from 1966 to 2022. The photographs represent Dow's major long-term projects and include images of 20th century U.S. vernacular culture, roadside architecture, small business interiors, food trucks, and U.S. landscapes; stadiums and athletic fields around the world; and interiors and exteriors of private clubs, libraries, and churches and museums in cities around the world. Dow's U.S. work focuses mainly on New England, the South, and the West; with a single-state project on North Dakota. Other significant images are from England, Mexico, Scotland, Argentina, and Uruguay. Travel photographs often include outdoor advertising and cultural expressions such as murals, bar decor, and graffiti. Also included is a series of commissioned work. Within the professional papers series are materials on Dow's teaching career, which include a large set of slides, course readers, printed syllabi, and digital files. The series also includes a large vertical file of art gallery ephemera. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
The core of the collection consists of 1462 black-and-white and color photographic prints and approximately 1905 film negatives of images taken by Jim Dow from 1966 to 2022. They document his extensive travels across much of the U.S., in Argentina, Uruguay, England, and Mexico, and to a lesser extent in Canada, Portugal and Scotland. The black-and-white images represent Dow's earliest work, after which Dow moved to shooting chiefly 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 baseball, football, and soccer stadiums and athletic fields, chiefly in the U.S. and U.K.; and for his images of the architecture and interiors of courthouses, 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, well-worn business façades, and gathering places such as barbecue joints, coffee shops, bars, diners, and event halls. Images of North Dakota and the Northern Plains appear frequently, as do images from California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. There is also 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 details of outdoor advertising and cultural expressions such as murals, handpainted signs, sculptures, bar decor, and graffiti; people are rarely present.
Also included 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. More images are present in negative format.
The professional papers include a 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, a set of approximately 120,960 teaching slides, and digital files, visual as well as textual, related to Dow's photography and art courses(1980s-2019). Both of these series illustrate two of Dow's spheres of activity integral to his own photography career.
These materials form multiple installments of Jim Dow's archive at Duke University. Additions of photographic prints and other professional papers are anticipated.