Guide to the Olive Pierce Photographs, 1960-2008
Documentary photographer based in Rockland (Knox Co.), Maine. The Olive Pierce Photographs span the years 1960-2008. The collection is arranged into three series: Photographs, Manuscripts and Printed Material, and Electronic Material. Documentary black and white photographs taken by Pierce feature Maine life and landscapes from 1960-1993; daily life, political turmoil, and social conditions in urban Massachussetts neighborhoods; and life in Iraq in 1999 and 2003, as well as protests in the U.S. against that war. Also includes manuscript, print, and electronic material related to Pierce's published works and her career as a documentary photographer and teacher of photography.
- Collection Number
- Olive Pierce photographs
- Pierce, Olive
- 24.5 Linear Feet, 700 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Material in English
The Olive Pierce Photographs span the years 1960-2004 and are arranged in three series: Photographs, Manuscripts and Printed Material, and Electronic Material. Documentary black and white photographic prints taken by Olive Pierce focus on New England life and landscapes from 1960-1993, and life in Iraq in 1999 and 2003, as well as protests in the U.S. against that war. The earliest body of Pierce's work (1960-1968) features landscapes and individuals in Maine. A second group of images from Maine assembled by the photographer date from 1963 to 1993. Other prints document social and political controversy in Cambridge, Massachusetts during the early 1970s; social life in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in Cambridge during the 1970s; teenage life in a Cambridge high school in the early 1980s; everyday life of a fisherman's family in Maine from the late 1980s to the early 1990s; the daily lives of Iraqi children in 1999 during the period of UN sanctions; and protests in the U.S. against the war in Iraq. Collection also includes Pierce's On Teaching Photography guide (1987); as well as a poster for the exhibition on war protests, On the Bridge, A Community Speaks: Photographs by Olive Pierce; a copy of the Fall 2004 issue of Vassar's alumni magazine, which contains a photo-story by Pierce; and a copy of the magazine Maine Times, which contains six photos by Pierce accompanying an article on Iraq war protests in the U.S. (September 2003). Other items include postcards featuring her images of Iraqi children, and proofs for several collections of Pierce's images accompanied by text written by her. The Olive Pierce Photographs were acquired as part of the Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
In addition, original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use. Use copies must be made for access to content.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
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], Olive Pierce Photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Olive Pierce's earliest documentary photographs, taken in the 1960s, feature landscapes and individuals in Maine; a second group of images taken in Maine cover the years 1963-1993. Other prints in this series document social and political controversy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1970-1972; the social life in the Jefferson Park neighborhood in Cambridge during the 1970s; teenage life in a Cambridge high school in the early eighties; everyday life of a fisherman's family in Maine from the late 1980s to the early 1990s; and the daily lives of Iraqi children in 1999 during the period of UN sanctions, as well as protests in the U.S. against the war in Iraq. Prints are arranged by project, roughly in chronological order, and further by size.
Proofs, notes, and publicity related to several of Pierce's published works, and her career as a documentary photographer.
Student papers from Frank Hunter's Introduction to Photography class, Documentary Studies 115.01, responding to the exhibit Olive Pierce: Forty Years of Photographs, 1963-2003. Olive Pierce reviewed and wrote comments on the papers.
DVD created by Olive Pierce with images and audio titled "Fern's Last Days." Also, digital sound file of talk given by Pierce at Duke University, October 24, 2008 at the opening reception for the exhibit, "Olive Pierce: Forty Years of Photography." File has been mounted to library server. For access to both items, please contact the Rubenstein Library reference staff.
[Original DVD is closed to research; a use copy must be made before contents can be accessed. Please contact Research Services staff before coming to use this collection.]
Olive Pierce was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1925. Since her father had a secure job as a banker, her family's lifestyle was not much changed by the Depression. However, she was profoundly affected by driving through the Dustbowl in the early thirties and seeing families who had lost everything moving west in trucks. She was educated at Vassar College, graduating in an accelerated wartime program in 1945. In 1948 she went to Poland as a secretary to a post-World War II medical mission. She returned with snapshots of Auschwitz and Warsaw in ruins and with the desire to become a photographer.
Pierce had as her mentors and teachers photographers Berenice Abbott and Paul Caponigro. In 1976 she received a fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute which turned her toward documentary work. In 1986 she published No Easy Roses: A Look at the Lives of City Teenagers, based on her experience as a teacher of photography at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Ten years later, she published Up River: The Story of a Maine Fishing Community.
The 1990 Gulf War shocked Pierce into political awareness about American foreign policy in the Middle East. To oppose the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, she went illegally to Baghdad and Basrah in 1999 under the auspices of Voices in the Wilderness to photograph children. In 2004, after fifty years of working as a photographer, she turned her attention to an audio documentary about the death of a Maine lobster fisherman. She is presently working on a novel with a related theme.
Pierce's photographs have been shown in Massachusetts, Maine, and Chicago, Illinois. She is represented in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Massachusetts; the Portland Museum of Art; and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Children -- Iraq
- Documentary Photography -- Massachusetts
- Documentary Photography -- Maine
- Documentary Photography -- Iraq
- Fishing -- Maine -- Pictorial works
- High school students -- Massachusetts -- Attitudes
- Iraq War, 2003-2011 -- Pictorial works
- Iraq War, 2003-2011 -- Protest movements -- United States
- Photography -- Study and teaching
- Cambridge (Mass.) -- Social life and customs
- Cambridge (Mass.) -- Pictorial works
- Cambridge (Mass.) -- History
- Iraq -- Pictorial works
- Iraq -- Social life and customs
- Massachusetts -- Pictorial works
- Massachusetts -- Social life and customs
- Maine -- Social life and customs
- Maine -- Pictorial works
The Olive Pierce Photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2006 and 2008.
Processed by Karen Glynn, Paula Jeannet, December 2008
Encoded by Paula Jeannet, Katy Terrell, February 2009
Accessions 2006-0036, 2006-0112, 2008-0052, and 2008-0093 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Accession 2009-0152 added to collection and finding aid by Meghan Lyon, June 2009.