Ohio University

Documentary Photography Archive

Ask Archives and Special Collections

“You’re not taking a photo. You’re sharing a life.” ~ Lynn Johnson

The goal of the Ohio University Libraries Documentary Photography Archive is to preserve and make available the work of photographers for use in the classroom by faculty, in projects by students, and in all variety of study by researchers. The archive not only serves as a record of the importance of documentary photography, but also of the modern human experience. While this collection offers an exceptional learning opportunity for student photojournalists, visual literacy and visual culture are increasingly important to a wide range of fields in the academy and the collection is used for a wide range of purposes. The archive offers all researchers the opportunity to see, study, and engage critically with images that have captured the beauty and tragedy of society and culture in the modern world.

The cornerstone collection of the archive is the work of Lynn Johnson (MA ’01), known for her intimate, compassionate photographs of everyday people, often in extraordinary circumstances. This body of work consists of nearly 2 million images from her early freelance and Pittsburgh Press work to assignments for National GeographicLIFESports Illustrated, and others.

The collection includes documentary photography from the mid-twentieth century to today, in particular photojournalism, including color and black & white originals, negatives, transparencies, and digital formats, textual support materials documenting the work and business of contributing photographers (articles, diaries, business records, etc.), and materials assisting with the retrieval and accessibility of the collection (inventories, proof sheets, etc.). Developing our Documentary Photography Archive is one of our major capital campaign goals.

Opportunities for Student & Researcher Interaction

We actively seek to engage the OHIO community, especially students, and match researcher needs with our collections, as well as to broaden researchers’ knowledge of our collections through promotions and exhibits.

Already undergraduate and graduate students have interacted with the archive in projects involving preservation, arranging, digitization, promotion, and exhibit building. Classes in visual communication, the history of photography, and osteopathic medicine have connected with the archive through assignments and discussion.

For more information about the collection or to discuss student or research use, please contact Laura Smith, photo archivist.