Guide to the Frank Espada photographs and papers, 1946-2010 and undated, bulk 1975-2010
Political activist and documentary photographer of Puerto Rican extraction based in California. Collection consists largely of black-and-white photographic prints, contact sheets, proofs, and negatives, chiefly dating from the mid-1960s through 2010, relating to Espada's Puerto Rican diaspora documentary project, his project work on indigenous Chamorro communities in Micronesia, and his documentary work on HIV/AIDS outreach and education in San Francisco. The Puerto Rican Diaspora materials include over 100 oral history recordings. A smaller group of photographic and manuscript materials derive from Espada's participation in civil rights movements on behalf of voter registration and school desegregation in New York City, 1962-1970, and discriminatory housing and poverty, primarily in California. Other materials include research files on other documentary topics he was currently investigating; materials related to exhibits; teaching materials from his photography courses; and other manuscript and printed materials from his career. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
- Collection Number
- Frank Espada photographs and papers
- Espada, Frank, 1930-
- 45 Linear Feet, 51 boxes; 2 oversize folders
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
The Frank Espada Papers and Photographs collection consists largely of photographic prints, contact sheets, proofs, and negatives, chiefly dating from the mid-1970s through 2010, relating to Espada's Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, his project work on indigenous Chamorro communities in Micronesia, primarily in Guam, Tinian, and Saipan, and his work documenting HIV/AIDS outreach and education in San Francisco. The largest body of materials, which includes photographs as well as manuscripts and recorded interviews, derives from Espada's work with the Puerto Rican communities which spanned several decades. A smaller group of materials, nineteen prints, associated contacts and negatives and several folders of documents, were created through Espada's activism in the Civil Rights Movement for voter registration and school desegregation in New York City from 1962-1970.
Other materials include research files on documentary topics he was currently investigating; materials used in preparation for his many photography project exhibits, large and small; teaching syllabi and notes from his photography courses; awards and memorabilia; and other manuscript and printed materials from his career in photography.
The photographic materials have been arranged in series according to format: Contact Sheets and Prints; Negatives; Loose Proofs; Manuscript Materials; Photographic Prints; and Audiovisual Materials. there is also an oversize materials grouping at the end of the collection.
Acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. There may be a 48-hour delay in obtaining these materials.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
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.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Frank Espada Photographs and Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Houses Frank Espada's contact sheets and proofs from his work on the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, the Chamorro Documentary Project, and his projects documenting San Francisco's Youth Environment Study (YES) in 1989-1990, the Civil Rights Movement in 1964, along with other various small projects. These have been sorted into contact sheets and proofs, arranged by project and then by location or number, using a numbering scheme developed by Espada that reaches across his negatives and contact sheets.
Negatives have been removed to their own non-circulating boxes, beginning at Box 16.
These are not the only proofs present in the collection. There is also a series of Loose Proofs that have not been sleeved, but have been sorted by project. Refer to the Detailed Description for more information on that series.
In addition, a third series in the collection contains Prints from several of Espada's projects.
Images from the grant-funded Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project were taken in over 30 locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico from the 1970s and 1980s, chiefly from 1979-1981. They are organized by location, and within by format - contact sheets, then proof prints, using Espada's own numbering scheme that connects negatives, proofs, and contact sheets. Missing numbers have been noted below each project entry. Most proofs have only a location or event designation, with no matching numbers accompanying the image. Proof prints are typically sized 3.5x5 inches, however there are also pockets of 5x7 and 8x10 inch prints. Larger sizes reflect a selection of Espada's preferred images. Many bear stamps on the back with the project title, theme, subjects, date, and id number.
Locations including California, Milwaukee, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. Most locations have sub-locations and sub-projects broken out and listed in greater detail.
Many of these images were used in Espada's book, The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People (2007).
Scenes include Kona, Kohala, a macadamia farm, Kukuihaele, Honolulu, Shinko House (Honolulu), a Puerto Rican Softball League, Hilo, and Kalihi Valley.
Missing PA 53-58, 61, 63.
Some of Espada's earliest work in the 1960s derives from his involvement in civil rights activism, focused on voting rights, human rights across all races, education reform, and combatting urban poverty and its effects. These efforts began for Espada in New York City, but continued all of Espada's life, including his new home state of California. The images document meetings, protests, individual activists, and ordinary citizens, with locations including Albany, East New York City, South Bronx, and Brooklyn. Prints typically measure 4.5x6.5 inches, but there are selected larger prints sized 5x7 and 8x10.
This subseries includes contact sheets, proofs, and some prints for a range of smaller projects undertaken by Espada, including his photography from the Civil Rights movement and voter registration in New York, 1962-1970, and the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco. The contents are arranged by project, then within by format - contact sheets, then proof prints, using Espada's numbering system that links negatives, proofs, and contact sheets. Prints are typically sized 3.5x5 inches, however there are also selected prints of 5x7 and 8x10 inches.
QUEST seems to refer to some type of enrichment program for students in elementary schools.
RAP was a non-profit program established to find solutions to gang violence in San Francisco's Mission District.
THe acronym SAJA probably refers to a 1970s non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., Special Approaches in Juvenile Assistance, that comprised: the Runaway House, a temporary shelter and counseling program; two foster group homes; a job-finding cooperative that provided a free alternative to regular employment agencies; a free school; and several associated projects, including a farm, a people's law institute, and a housing co-op.
Roman was a founder of Massive Economic Neighborhood Development (M.E.N.D.), a major antipoverty and community action organization in East Harlem. He challenged traditional Italian-American leadership in a district changing to a population base of Puerto Rican immigrants.
The community activist group Mission Agenda was focused chiefly on housing issues, particularly on keeping "SRO" hotels - Single Room Occupancy - from closing, and against the eviction of inhabitants, often immigrants, the poor, and the transient.
Contact sheets and proofs from Espada's documentary project on the indigenous Chamorro people, focusing on Micronesia, primarily Guam, Tinian, and Saipan, 1990. Also includes a set of several hundred images on contact sheets, taken during a festival in support of Chamorro people, held in Vallejo, California in 1989.
Arrangement parallels the arrangement of the contact sheets and proofs of the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, the Other Projects, and the Chamorro Documentary Project subseries.
Original negatives are restricted to access and have been removed into non-circulating boxes for preservation purposes.
Along with the sleeved proofs that have been filed with the contact sheets in the Contact Sheets and Proofs series (above), the collection contains thousands of loose proofs that are sorted by event or location, but have not been matched to a contact sheet or negative. This series includes proofs from the Puerto Rican Diaspora and the Chamorro Documentary projects, as well as miscellaneous, unlabelled proofs.
Proofs have been sorted by project and location, and any accompanying information has been transcribed below. Each box contains smaller shoebox-style boxes of proofs, so container types are designated as 21.1, 21.2, and so on, to distinguish between the smaller boxes held within the larger containers.
Following a rehousing project for proof prints in the main collection, there is now a gap in box numbers from the Contacts and Proof Prints to the Loose Prints series.
Espada's teaching career is documented in this series, which includes re-foldered class binders as well as evaluations, class rosters, handouts, and other course materials about photography. The latest date of 2010 refers to correspondence in the Puerto Rican Diaspora subseries. Original folder titles have been retained in most cases.
Another large sub-series includes materials from the preparations and edits for Espada's book, The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, which was published in 2006.
The supporting documentation for the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project offers insight into the work done by Espada to win the grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the work he completed during the grant period through site visits, newsletters, and reports. Several folders relate to interviews, including some summaries, quotes, and transcripts. The audiocassette tapes for these interviews are a separate series in the collection. Another component of this subseries is the exhibit preparation and logistics: the project was exhibited in 45 venues over a 15 year period. Finally, there is third-party supporting documentation about Puerto Rico and the various communities highlighted by Espada in the project.
The Chamorro Documentary Project materials, dating 1989-1990, include information about the different locations photographed by Espada, as well as notebooks and exhibit materials.
The remainder of the series includes some supporting documentation about some of Espada's other projects, including HIV/AIDS outreach, Civil Rights, and the Real Alternatives Program. Other materials honor Espada, including some city proclamations.
Approximately 335 large black-and-white gelatin silver prints, many matted and signed by Frank Espada. Most prints relate to the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project and contain portraits of Puerto Rican communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico itself. Other notable prints date from the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 and 1964, including voter registration drives, school boycotts, and the March on Washington; the Chamorro Documentary Project, with photographs from Guam in 1990; and Espada's documentation of HIV and drug use in San Francisco. Photographs include original descriptive titles.
Prints have been boxed by size, with photographs grouped within boxes as best as possible by content (Puerto Rican Diaspora project materials have been sub-grouped by location, if possible). Prints are listed by the size of the box, which closely reflects the size of the print (15x19 prints are within a 16x20 box, for example). Some prints were assigned a number by Espada as part of his internal documentation. These have been included when present on the print.
The majority of this series consists of interview cassette tapes 1-129 (a total of 160 interviews) from the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project. There are also three video interviews with Frank Espada.
Original audiovisual recordings are closed to use. Use of these materials may require production of listening or viewing copies. Please contact the Rubenstein Library before coming to use this collection.
Oversize manuscript materials, including proclamations, essays or writings by Espada, and certificates from Espada's photography courses.
Frank Espada (1930-2014) was an American photojournalist, photographer, activist, educator, and community organizer. He was born December 21, 1930 in Utuado, Puerto Rico as Francisco Luis Espada Roig. His family migrated to New York City in 1939. He attended City College of New York but cut his studies short to join the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Espada married his wife, Marilyn, in 1952. Together they raised two boys and one girl: Jason, Lisa, and Martín. After the war, he attended The New York Institute of Photography in New York City, where his mentors were W. Eugene Smith and Dave Heath. To support his family he worked as an electrical contractor for ten years.
From the late 1950s, Espada worked as a community organizer in New York City’s most vulnerable and impoverished areas, and organized strikes against unfair rent increases, voter registration drives, sit-ins of welfare recipients and mothers, public school boycotts, and marches for civil and political rights. In 1979, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to document Puerto Rican communities in the US as well as those who returned to Puerto Rico. From 1990 to 1992, he undertook the Chamorro Documentary Project, documenting life for indigenous peoples in Micronesia.
In 1985, he and his family moved to San Francisco, where continued his activism, chiefly related to housing rights, the eradication of poverty, and education reform; he also worked with Mid-City Coalition for HIV Prevention in San Francisco to document and improve AIDS outreach. He became a teacher of photography, working for University of California, Berkeley, Extension Program, in San Francisco, and taught photography and darkroom techniques at the Academy of Art University and the San Francisco Art Institute. In 2006, he published The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, and in 2008, received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Lehman College, Bronx, New York
Frank Espada died in New York City, February 16, 2014, at the age of 83. His documentary photographs have been exhibited around the world: at the Museum of Art in Chicago; Museo del Barrio, New York City; Honolulu Hale; and the Museo de Arte in Ponce, Puerto Rico; and Duke University’s Rubenstein Library, among others.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University)
- Espada, Frank, 1930-
- Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project
- AIDS (Disease) -- Prevention
- Chamorro (Micronesian people) -- Pictorial works
- Civil rights movements -- United States -- 20th century -- Pictorial works
- Documentary Photography
- Indigenous peoples -- Pictorial works
- Photography of immigrants
- Portrait photography
- Puerto Ricans -- Pictorial works
- Puerto Ricans -- United States -- Social conditions
- Guam -- Pictorial works
- Hawaii -- Pictorial works
- Micronesia -- Pictorial works
- New York (N.Y.) -- History -- 1951-
- New York (N.Y.) -- Pictorial works
- Pennsylvania -- Pictorial works
- Puerto Rico -- Pictorial works
- San Francisco (Calif.) -- Pictorial works
The Frank Espada photographs and papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase from 2010-2013.
Processed by Meghan Lyon, January 2011
Encoded by Meghan Lyon, January 2011
Addition of 2013 processed and encoded by Levi Crews and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, October 2013.
This collection is scheduled for further processing: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.
Accessions described in this collection: 2010-0230, 2011-0037, and 2013-0150.