William Gedney, ca. 1960

From the mid 1950s through the early 1980s, William Gedney (1932-1989) photographed throughout the United States, in India, and in Europe. From street scenes outside his Brooklyn apartment to the daily chores of unemployed coal miners, from the indolent lifestyle of hippies in Haight-Ashbury to the sacred rituals of Hindu worshippers, Gedney recorded the lives of others with remarkable clarity and poignancy. These photographs, along with his notebooks and writings, illuminate the vision of an intensely private man who, as a writer and photographer, revealed the lives of others with striking sensitivity. Included here are selections from Gedney's finished prints, work prints, contact sheets, notes, notebooks, handmade photographic books, book dummies, and correspondence.


The William Gedney Photographs and Writings web site was funded in part by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


Copyright, Citation, and Reproduction Information

The materials included in the William Gedney Photographs and Writings Web site are provided by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library for the purposes of research, teaching, private study, or general interest. For these purposes the images and transcribed texts may be viewed and printed. (more . . .)

The William Gedney Photographs and Writings Web Site contains 4920 photographic images, 1214 images of writings and notebooks, and 274 images from photographic book projects. Of the writings, eight notebooks have been fully transcribed and are available as both text and images, and one typescript is available as electronic text.

The materials are from the William Gedney Collection at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University. The bulk of the collection was a gift from Richard T. Gedney and Lee Friedlander to the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library in 1992. In 1997 Richard Gedney donated several more boxes of material including William Gedney's personal and non-photographic items: notebooks, diaries, correspondence, appointment books, drawings, and sketch books. For more information on the archival collection, see the Archival Collection Guide

William Gedney prints available at Howard Greenberg Gallery

A limited number of original prints made by William Gedney are available for sale through Howard Greenberg Gallery:

Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-334-0010
Fax: 212-334-0010

Technical Information

Selection of the Materials

The materials included in the project were selected by Margaret Sartor, a subject expert on William Gedney's photographic work and life. From December 1998 to April 1999, she selected over 4900 photographs and 40 books and writings from the approximate 60,000 items contained within the William Gedney Photographs and Writings collection at Duke University. Photographs and materials were chosen for inclusion in the project based on their artistic merit as well as their relevance to Gedney's life and work.

Scanning and Creation of the Images

The images for the William Gedney Photographs and Writings web site were scanned on UMAX Mirage IIse (11x17") and Agfa Arcus II (8x14") flatbed scanners . These were connected to Power Macintosh 7300/200 workstations running Mac OS8 and Adobe Photoshop 4.0. From January to September 1999, Duke students working in the Digital Scriptorium scanned over 6500 images. These master images were created at 150 dpi in 8-bit grayscale for the photographs and in 24-bit RGB color for the written materials and saved in JPEG format.

Each master image was passed through a quality control process, checked for image quality, amount of skew, orientation, cropping, saturation, and other problems which arose. The black and white photographs, while commonly thought to be "easy" to scan, were found to be by far the most difficult and most technical scanning yet done by the Digital Scriptorium. A primary challenge was adjusting the density of lights and darks to match the original print, while still producing an image that looked good on a variety of monitors. Factors such as the type of paper the prints were printed on played a role, and for some prints a best possible scan could not match the true appearance of the original. While routine methods for the scanning of written materials could be devised for the student assistants, the photographs took considerably more skill and training to develop an "eye" for a quality image. Monitor calibration using test charts and calibration software was essential.

Programming to automatically create 72 dpi images and thumbnails from the original 150 dpi scans was conceived and developed using the Perl scripting language and ImageMagick, a freely available UNIX graphics package. The conversion consisted of several steps. First, all of the 150 dpi images were transferred to a UNIX work machine (a dual-processor Sun Sparc 20) by FTP and then arranged according to the directory structure scheme devised at the beginning of the project (see below). This scheme allows for quick server access and ease of file management by creating a tree-like structure in which each branch may contain no more than 100 subdirectories.

During the scanning and database entry phase, each photograph was identified by a unique identifier chosen during the selection process. All the image files were renamed from their working names to a regular and easily identifiable file naming system based on the unique identifier (for example IN0017), followed by the size of the image - expressed as "150dpi" in this step (IN0017-150dpi.jpeg). The unique identifier serves as the connecting link holding the database records and the images together.

Database Format for Photographic Images

During the scanning and data entry phase of the project, students entered metadata about each photograph into a FileMaker Pro database. The database features all of the fields in the same order that they appear in the online database. The primary point of intellectual control is the subject descriptor of the photograph which was assigned during the selection phase of the project. The students also created a free-text description of the photograph. While a formal thesaurus was not used, the subject terms and descriptions were normalized across the project by the project manager and subject expert. At the outset of the project, the use of formal thesauri such as the Library of Congress Thesaurus of Graphic Materials or the Art and Architecture Thesaurus was considered. However, after considering the time it would take to assign such subject terms for 5000 images, as well as the fact that student assistants were entering the data, the more practical free-text solution was devised. For future projects, the creation of a project-specific thesaurus or the use of a formal thesaurus such as those mentioned above is recommended.

The database which contained the information for the photographs was converted from the original FileMaker Pro databases to EAD Version 1.0 SGML documents. The database was first exported into a tab delimited text file which was then imported into Microsoft Excel for arrangement and manipulation of the data. The result was then saved as a comma delimited text file and converted to EAD using a Perl script. Each database field was mapped to an EAD element, some made unique by use of attributes.

TEI Encoding for Text and Book Materials

Text and book-based materials in the William Gedney Photographs and Writings were encoded using the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) TEI Lite DTD. The use of the DTD was supplemented by the TEI Text Encoding in Libraries Guidelines for Best Encoding Practices. Selections from thirty-three of Gedney's handmade books and notebooks and nine of Gedney's handmade photographic book projects are included in the website along with a typescript and a number of loose pages of miscellaneous writings. While all ofthe writings are available as images, eight of the notebooks have also been fully transcribed and encoded in TEI. The Writings on India, 1969-1971 typescript was scanned and transferred into electronic text using OmniPage Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software, then encoded in TEI. For the notebooks, photographic book projects, and writings which were not transcribed, the TEI encoding serves as a structure for organizing and presenting the images. Each encoded document features a complete description of the source material and its subject content to allow for searchability and resource discovery even without fully transcribed text.


Stephen Miller: Project Manager

Margaret Sartor: Subject Expert

Steve Hensen: Project Director

Lynn Pritcher: Project Manager of Emergence of Advertising in America and Ad*Access projects

Paolo Mangiafico: Director of the Digital Scriptorium

Special thanks to all of the Duke University students who worked on the William Gedney Project:
Andrew Barco
Lydia Boyd
Adrienne Brueggemeyer
Jordan Capps
Ryan Denniston
Justin Essig
Sunil Hari
John Royall
Amardeep Singh
Shannon Smith
Heather Swagart
Kate Touw


We appreciate hearing from researchers, teachers, students, and the general public who are using this resource in interesting ways. Send e-mail to special-collections@duke.edu.

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