Un-Contested Winners from the Library’s Vertical Files

Two brochures showed up recently in the vertical files for photography competitions.

America’s Many Faces was organized by Edward Steichen for the National Urban League in 1960.  He convened a panel of experts to plan the exhibition, including photographers Margaret Bourke-White, Barbara Morgan, and Gordon Parks, eminent cultural anthropologist Dr. Margaret Mead, and even architect Edward Durrell Stone.

The brochure lays out the prospectus and rules.  The brochure says, “We want pictures showing cooperation and friendship across lines of race, religion and national origin.  We also want pictures showing the difficulties, prejudice and open conflict which sometimes result from differences in background and origin.”

Steichen, himself, wrote “The fulfillment of this theme can serve as a specific instance of one of the biggest roles of photography – that of explaining man to man, in this case of explaining Americans to Americans, and Americans to the world.”

There is an ad from Ebony magazine for the exhibition in Google Books and a follow-up article.

The other brochure was for “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  The photography competition was presented by The Methodist Student Movement in Nashville, Tennessee from 1961.

Its text [possibly by journalist B.J. Stiles] strikes a very different tone to the National Urban League competition.

This brochure reads, “This is to be an exhibit which explores the chaos and despair of our day, as experienced from birth to death.  Photographs depicting the tensions, threats of destruction, confusion or absence of purposes, and personal and community conflicts will be included.  In addition to expressing the dilemmas which confront modern man, the exhibit will make visual statements of the search for meaning which permeates our society.  Photographs will be sought which portray aspects of hope, expressions of renewal, and experiences of creativity, as seen in the age of anxiety.”

The winners were to be published in motive [magazine], the official publication of the The Methodist Student Movement, founded by B.J. Stiles.

On the back of the brochure is a quote from Frank Baker, Senior Art Director, McCann-Erickson: “The greatness in paintings is the ability to endure, to fascinate, and to re-fascinate generations of minds.  Can the camera, with its inherent immediacy, create works of lasting interest?  I believe it can and will.  Only time will tell.”

[Deirdre Donohue, Stephanie Shuman Librarian]

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