Guide to the Morrie Camhi photographs, 1960s-2012 and undated
Documentary photographer and instructor based in Petaluma, California; died in 1999. Collection features 167 black-and-white prints of documentary photographer Camhi's work on five projects: ADVantage, a series of portraits of individuals who have written personal want ads; Espejo and Farmworkers, which explore Mexican American labor activism and the lives of undocumented immigrants; Jews of Greece, portraits of Jewish people living in various places in Greece; and The Prison Experience, which documents inmates,their families, and staff of the California State Prison at Vacaville and their answers to the question Camhi posed to them about what they would like people to know about life in prisons. The gelatin silver prints range in size from 8.5x13.5 to 10.25x13.25 inches; most are in 16x20 inch mats. The collection of prints is accompanied by approximately five hundred original negatives and slides, many featuring Camhi's own family as well as several photographic projects not represented in the prints series. Acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
- Collection Number
- Morrie Camhi photographs
- 1960s-2012 and undated
- Camhi, Morrie
- 12 Linear Feet, Approx. 800 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
Collection features 167 black-and-white prints of documentary photographer Camhi's work on five projects, two of which are inter-related: ADVantage, a series of intimate portraits in their homes of individuals who have written personal want ads; Espejo and Farmworkers, which explore the dimensions of Mexican American activism and the lives of undocumented farmworkers; Jews of Greece, a study of individual Jews living in various places in Greece; and The Prison Experience, which documents the lives and concerns of prisoners in a California State Prison at Vacaville and their answers to the question Camhi posed to them about what they would like people to know about the prison experience. The gelatin silver prints range in size from 8.5x13.5 to 10.25x13.25 inches, with many in 16x20 inch mats.
The collection of prints is accompanied by over 500 original negatives and slides, many featuring Camhi's own family. The negatives and slides also contain images associated with other photographic projects not represented in the prints series, including "Roadside Attraction" and "Haiku."
Acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
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How to Cite
[Identification of item], Morrie Camhi photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Thirty black-and-white prints ranging in size from 8.5x13.5 to 10.25x13.25 inches in 16x20 inch mats. The subjects are writers of personal ads, who Camhi contacted after seeing the ads in the paper. Camhi wrote that he saw the personal ads as distilled self-portraits and created his own photographic portraits of the authors of the ads in their homes. The text of the personal ads appears with most images.
Camhi directed this two-year visual exploration of Mexican American life and culture called Espejo, and invited five other documentary photographers to join him. The resulting body of work was exhibited in Chicago and Oakland and published in book form in 1978. Primarily working in New Mexico and California, Camhi shot Mexican-American artists, sculptors, craftsmen and undocumented families at work and in their homes. The prints measure from 7.75x12.25 to 11x14 inches, with most of them in 16x20 inch mats. Images taken by other project photographers are not included in this collection.
Series features portraits and scenes of California Mexican Americans - chiefly agricultural laborers and their supporters - participating in political activities such as rallies and demonstrations. Prints measure from 7.75x12.25 to 10.75x13.75 inches, with most housed in 16x20 inch mats.
Portraits of Jews, young and old, male and female, from various towns in Greece, taken by Camhi in the early 1980s. Camhi himself was a descendant of Greek Sephardic Jews. The images depict individuals at home and at work, usually accompanied by material possessions such as tools of their trade. Prints range in size from 8.5x12.75 to 11x14 inches and most are housed in 16x20 mats. The photographs were exhibited at Berkeley, California's Magnes Museum, and 80 images were published in book form in Faces and Facets: The Jews of Greece, (1992) which also contains two essays, one by Camhi and one on the historical context by Nikos Stavroulakis.
These portraits were taken over an 18-month period and feature inmates, families, and prison staff from the California State Prison at Vacaville. Almost every image is accompanied by a statement, written on the frame, in answer to Camhi's question posed to his subjects: "What do you want people to know about the prison experience?" The images led to two traveling exhibits as well as a book. Prints measure 11x14 inches and are all in 16x20 inch mats. These photographs were published in book form as The Prison Experience (1990).
Supporting photographic and paper material relating to Camhi's photographic projects as well as personal photos and slides of his family. Negatives and slides are in original order as received.
Original negatives are closed to research use.
Approximately 1,000 negatives in original sleeves. Subjects include Camhi's images published in Breakthrough Magazine; trips to China, Ireland/England, Israel, and Paris; family trips in the 1960s and many other images of his family; and a self-portrait. Most negatives are medium format 60mm strips, but there are also many 35mm negative strips and large format sheet film. In some cases there are also positive contact strips mingled with the negative strips. Arranged in original order as received.
Original negatives are closed to research use.
Slides are both in sleeves and housed in small slide boxes. The boxes include family photos, but also include images from Camhi's major projects - Farmworkers, Ad:Vantage, Roadside, The Prison Experience, and Espejo. The sheets of slides also include these works, but also feature Haiku (one of his earliest projects), "Slavin," and Jews of Greece (JOG); titles are taken from slide labels or boxes. Also includes an image of the artist Christo.
Morrie Camhi was born in New York City in 1928, a descendant of Greek Sephardic Jews, and died in 1999 in Petaluma, California, where he lived with his family. He majored in English Literature at UCLA, then went on to a career in commercial photography; in the late 1960s he sold his business and began focusing on documentary work and teaching photography at San Francisco's City College. His work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in Chicago and New York, as well as galleries and museums in Europe, Israel, Japan and New Zealand, and his photographs have also been published in many books and photography journals.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Agricultural laborers -- California -- Pictorial works
- Agricultural laborers -- Political activity -- California
- California -- Emigration and immigration -- Pictorial works
- Community life -- Greece -- Pictorial works
- Documentary Photography -- California
- Documentary Photography -- Greece
- Hispanic Americans -- Politics and government
- Hispanic Americans -- California -- Social conditions
- Inmates of institutions -- Attitudes
- Immigrants -- California -- Los Angeles -- Social conditions
- Jews, Greek -- Pictorial works
- Mexican Americans -- California -- Social conditions
- Mexican Americans -- California -- Pictorial works
- Prisons -- California -- Social conditions
- Prisons -- California -- Pictorial works
- Prisoners -- Attitudes -- California
- Personals -- Case studies
- Portrait photography
The Morrie Camhi photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in March 2013.
Processed by Joanne Fairhurst, Paula Jeannet, May 2013
Encoded by Joanne Fairhurst, Paula Jeannet, May 2013
Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2013-0094
This collection has been given initial processing: materials may not have been ordered and described beyond their original condition.