Jim Dow photographs, circa 1966-2023

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Restrictions:
Access note. Collection contains fragile audiovisual/photographic formats in the form of film negatives that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access. Access...
More about accessing and using these materials...

Summary

Creator:
Dow, Jim, 1942-
Abstract:
Jim Dow (1942- ) is an American photographer and educator based in Massachusetts. The core of the collection consists of over 1900 single-image photographs, 232 multi-image panoramic prints, and approximately 2300 film negatives, representing black-and-white and color images taken by Dow from 1966 to 2023. Subjects include: U.S. vernacular culture and landscapes, including roadside architecture, courthouses and jails, and small business interiors; food vendors, 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 were taken by Dow in Argentina, Canada, England, Mexico, Portugal, Scotland, and Uruguay, with a few images from Wales. Also included is a series of commissioned work. Dow's 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.
Extent:
140 Linear Feet (173 boxes; 1 oversize folder)
10 Terabytes
Language:
Materials in English
Collection ID:
RL.11709

Background

Scope and content:

The core of the collection consists of 1916 single-image photographs and 232 panoramic prints, totaling 2148 prints, and approximately 2300 film negatives of black-and-white and color images taken by Jim Dow over the course of his career from about 1966 to 2023. They document his travels across much of the U.S., and his trips to Argentina, Canada, England, Mexico, Portugal, Scotland, and Uruguay. The prints in this collection offer a body of images selected by the photographer; some additional images are found in negative format.

Dow is best known for his studies of 20th century American vernacular culture, roadside architecture, and landscapes, and food culture in the Americas; 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. 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 fa├žades, 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. In the 1980s, Dow was also commissioned to photograph the cultural and environmental landscapes of the state of North Dakota. 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 some of these images, particularly in the single-print series.

A series of Dow's commissioned work (1985-2008) rounds out the photographic prints portfolios. Many of these are images taken of facilities at New England universities and private schools such as MIT, Yale, Tufts, Vassar, and Phillips Academy.

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 teaching slides, and digital files, visual as well as textual, all 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.

Acquisition information:
The Jim Dow photographs were received from photographer Jim Dow by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase from 2019-2022.
Processing information:

Negatives processed and described by Paula Jeannet, Cassandra Klos, Edward Coles, and Alanna Styer, 2019.

Addition (2020-0063) of teaching slides processed and described by Paula Jeannet, Cassandra Klos, Prakruti Kumar, and Zoe Finiasz, 2020-2022.

Addition (2021-0134) processed and described by Paula Jeannet and Cassandra Klos, 2020-2022.

Addition (2022-0059) processed and described by Paula Jeannet, Farrell, Cassandra Klos, and Zoe Finiasz, August 2022-February 2023.

Addition (2022-0167) processed and described by Paula Jeannet, Cassandra Klos, and Zoe Finiasz, October 2022-June 2023.

Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: 2019-0030, 2020-0063, 2021-0134, 2022-0059, and 2022-0167.

Original titles and identifiers for negatives and photographic prints in this collection were created by the photographer; housing, enhanced description, and cataloging performed by library staff and interns, 2019-2023.

Arrangement:

Arranged in the following series: American Studies; Argentina; Clubs; Courthouses; England; Food; Jobs and Commissions; Major League Baseball Stadium Panoramas; Mexico; North Dakota; Stadium Panoramas; Stadium Singles; U.S. Road; Negatives; and Professional Papers.

Within each project series, prints are arranged by date; in some series, they are arranged by their page position in corresponding photobook publications.

Negatives are also in original order by project, and within, in rough chronological sequence by the photographer's original roll number and frame identifiers.

Physical facet:
2148 photographic prints; approx. 2300 negatives; approx. 130,000 slides
Dimensions:
The majority of the negative sheets measure 8x10 inches, with the remainder measuring 4x5 inches. Photographic prints were created in several sizes: 8 1/2 x 11 handling prints and 13 x 19 inch exhibit-quality prints; panoramic prints range from 16x26 inches to 17x59 inches.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Contents

Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Restrictions:

Access note. Collection contains fragile audiovisual/photographic formats in the form of film negatives that may need to be reformatted before use. Contact Research Services for access.

Access note. Some materials in this collection are electronic records that require special equipment. Contact Research Services with questions.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. Images may only be used for educational, non-commercial use. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Jim Dow photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.