Henry Horenstein photographs, 1967-2013, 2022

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Horenstein, Henry
Henry Horenstein is an American photographer, author, teacher, and filmmaker based in Massachusetts. The collection comprises 247 black-and-white and color photographic prints selected from his projects, a large series of about 2500 contact sheets, and a few other related materials. Subjects in the project prints series include Horenstein's family and friends; beachgoers in Havana, Cuba; blues and country musicians, the venues where they play, and their fans; the human body in extreme close-ups; horse and stock car racing; burlesque and drag performers; and historic tri-racial communities in Maryland. Together, the prints and contact sheets offer landscapes, street scenes, storefronts, theaters, highways, museums, concerts, bars, nightlife, fairs, and people and animals in Cuba, Dubai, Germany, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and all of New England, Missouri, New York, Paris, Tennessee, Texas, Venezuela, and other places. The dominant format is gelatin silver, with some chromogenic and digital work; print sizes range from 8x10 to 20x24 inches. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
41.5 Linear Feet (44 boxes)
Materials in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Collection comprises 247 black-and-white and color photographs taken by Henry Horenstein from 1970 to 2013, a large series of contact sheets spanning his career, and a few other supporting materials. Subjects range widely, with an emphasis on entertainment and music cultures. These images feature portraits of country and blues musicians, including Nathan Abshire, Dewey Balfa, Loretta Lynn, Del McCoury, Dolly Parton, Stringbean, and Doc Watson; other images show the venues where they perform and their families and fans. Another project documents drag and burlesque performers in Los Angeles, New York City, and Caracas and Buenos Aires, Venezuela. Other images include street musicians, honky-tonk bands, and barroom dancers and drinkers. The contact sheets series also includes many photographs of concerts and musicians.

Other project series feature Horenstein's family and friends; life on the El Malecón waterfront in Havana, Cuba; buildings, landscapes, and signs taken along Louisiana's highways; country shows at a historic theater in Branson, Missouri; extreme close-ups of the human body; spectators, drivers, stock cars, and vendors at a Connecticut motor speedway, 1972; and behind-the-scenes images of horse racing, including portraits of grooms, owners, bettors, horses in action and at rest, and jockeys, including portraits of Steve Cauthen and female jockey Joey Rusham.

The last series in the collection, "We Sort of People," references a project Horenstein undertook in collaboration with Leslie Tucker to document a cluster of small, tri-racial communities in southern Maryland, where she grew up, whose inhabitants are descendants of intermarriages between African American, white, and Native American people. The title of the project and its associated book (2023) originates from the phrase used by some residents who refer to their community as "we sort of people," calling attention to their unique racial and cultural identity.

The photographs in the collection range in size from approximately 8x10 to 20x24 inches. Photographic formats include chromogenic, pigment inkjet, and gelatin silver darkroom prints; the prints are often marked on the versos with edition numbers, printing dates, and other information, and are signed by the artist. Many have appeared in Horenstein's photobooks published throughout his career.

The estimated 2500 contact sheets in the collection are also black-and-white gelatin silver prints, with a few paper copies and digital prints; subjects include projects and shoots not found in the exhibit prints series. A sampling includes travel in France and Germany, camel racing and street scenes in Dubai, northeast country fairs, studies of animals, especially dogs, the neighborhood of Washington Street in Boston, and commercial shoots.

The series "Speedway 72" includes some proof prints, a speedway pass, and seven folders of layouts related to the artist's book, published in 2022.

Biographical / historical:

Henry Horenstein, American-born photographer, documentary filmmaker, author, and teacher based in Boston, studied history at the University of Chicago and received a BFA and MFA at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he is currently on the faculty. His mentors include Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White. His work has been widely exhibited at the Smithsonian, J. Paul Getty Museum, High Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has published his work in photobooks, including: Racing Days (1987); Humans (2004); Close Relations (2006); Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music (2012); Show (2010); Shoot What You Love (2016); and We Sort of People (2023). He has also published books of dog and animal portraits, photography manuals, and children's picture books.

From the artist's own statement about his photographic work:

"Over the years I've photographed many different types of subjects, even animals and the human form. But I've always returned to my roots as a documentary photographer. More than anything, I like a good story. And I try to tell one in a direct way, with humor and a punch line...For subjects, I prefer older cultures and places, especially disappearing ones. That's what my history teachers, Jesse Lemisch (at University of Chicago) and E.P. Thompson (at University of Warwick), taught me to do...One other great influence for me was my teacher at Rhode Island School of Design, Harry Callahan. Harry encouraged me to 'shoot what you love,' and to pay no attention to what others are doing. 'Even if you make bad pictures,' he said, 'you'll have a good time.' Thank you for that, Harry."

Acquisition information:
The Henry Horenstein photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library from the photographer as gifts and purchases from 2017-2023.
Processing information:

Processed and described by Yuqiao Cao and Paula Jeannet, 2017.

Additions processed and described by Paula Jeannet, 2019-2023.

Accession(s) represented in this collection guide: 2017-0204, 2019-0127, 2020-0024, 2022-0040, 2023-0136, 2023-0138.


Orgnized in the following series: Branson; Close Relations; Cuba; Honky Tonk; Humans; Louisiana; Margins; Racing Days; Shoot What You Love; Show; Speedway72; We Sort of People; and Contact Sheets.

Physical facet:
247 photographic prints; approximately 2500 contact sheets
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Terms of access:

Images may only be used for educational, non-commercial purposes; any other use requires the photographer's permission.

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

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