Up-date on the Photo League Negatives

Rosalie Gwathmey shares her work at a Photo League meeting, 1947
Rosalie Gwathmey shares her work at a Photo League meeting, 1947

Several months ago I posted a blog announcing my discovery of some negatives I took at a Photo League meeting from 63 years ago! I bemoaned the fact that I could only remember some of the faces from these photos and asked my readers to come forward with names of others I could not identify. I’m pleased to say that we did get a confirmation on one of the unknown faces. It came from Naomi Rosenblum, a photo historian and herself a member of the Photo League married to photographer Walter Rosenblum, also a member.

I am grateful to Mary Engel for circulating the post and coming up with this latest discovery. Mary, daughter of Ruth Orkin and Morris Engel, is responsible for launching the American Photography Archive Group (APAG) some years ago, which has become a valuable resource for those managing photography estates and archives. Her parents were members of the Photo League and she is an award-winning film producer who contributed to the recent excellent film about the Photo League, Ordinary Miracles. Naomi and Walter’s daughter, Nina Rosenblum, was one of the producers and directors of the film.

The photo above is the one Naomi helped me with. I had already identified Jacob Deschin, an early photography writer for the New York Times, and a good friend. But I hadn’t known that the woman in the photo is Rosalie Gwathmey, who joined the League in 1942 and was known for her photos of black southern communities around her hometown of Charlotte, NC. After the FBI began investigating the Photo League in the early 50’s she destroyed all her negatives — a real tragedy for the photography community.

Below are the other photos from my prior post that still contain unidentified people in case any other folks have thoughts about who they might be.

Unidentified Photo League members, 1949

Unidentified Photo League member, 1949

Unidentified Photo League members, 1949

The Photo League was a meeting ground for people from all backgrounds and cultures who were finding common ground in the desire to raise consciousness about social conditions through the medium of photography. I’d love to put names to some of these faces. Sitting fourth from the left was Lew Parella, editor at U.S. Camera.

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