The Photographer’s Curator

Elizabeth Siegel



Hugh Edwards seemed to embody numerous contradictions: although he only had a high school education, he was by all accounts a true intellectual, an avid reader who taught himself French and Italian so he could read Jean Genet and Alberto Moravia in their original tongues; he was knowledgeable about classical music, opera, the ballet, and Renaissance painting, but he also was a voracious consumer of the music of Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers as well as the movies Lawrence of Arabia and Grand Prix. A sensitive photographer himself, Edwards documented the real people who frequented a local roller-rink, until he decided to stop taking pictures because, as he put it, “other people take them for me.”[1] During his brief but significant tenure as the Art Institute’s curator of photography, he preferred to keep out of the spotlight as he championed the work of artists; despite the fierceness of his opinions, demonstrated through his voluminous correspondence, he only rarely published his thoughts about photography. And in a career that has been largely overlooked, Edwards had an enormous and permanent impact on the museum, on the city of Chicago, and on the public’s understanding of photography in twentieth-century America.


Edwards had already been at the museum for several decades before he was asked to lead the Art Institute’s photography program. He began working part-time in the museum’s library in 1929, and soon transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings, where he eventually became the assistant to the curator Carl O. Schniewind and a curator in the department himself.[2] This was fortuitous timing, for Schniewind initiated a series of ambitious, if intermittent, photography exhibitions in the 1940s, presenting the work of Lisette Model, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, André Kertész, and Walker Evans, the photographer whom Edwards credited with opening his eyes to the camera’s possibilities.[3] Beginning in 1951, Peter Pollack organized exhibitions of photographs out of the museum’s publicity office—showing work by Harry Callahan, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston, among others—often acquiring prints from such shows. In 1957 Schniewind died and Pollack left the museum. Harold Joachim was named the head of the Department of Prints and Drawings, and he charged Edwards with spearheading a new program of exhibitions and acquisitions. (Edwards would later confess to Pollack that he was “frightened to heartburn by this new responsibility.”[4]) The several hundred Pollack acquisitions now joined the 244 photographs by Stieglitz and his circle gifted to the museum from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection by Georgia O’Keeffe in 1949, forming the core of the nascent photography collection.


A version of this account of Edwards’s predecessors appears in a 1963 article, the only published text in which the curator explained his positions on photography. In the piece Edwards demonstrates how photographs quietly and almost effortlessly entered the permanent collection of a large survey museum while avoiding a pitched battle for the soul of art. “It is remarkable and commendable,” he wrote, “how this took place with no opposition and without trying to bait the public with the paradisiacal rewards of some restricted philosophy of the camera’s purisms.”[5] It may have been a seamless transition, but the attention given to photography differentiated the Art Institute of Chicago from American art museums in the 1950s and 1960s. As Edwards himself explained in a letter, “Other than the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago is the only major museum in the United States which has continuous shows of photography.”[6] Comparisons to the Museum of Modern Art were inevitable, due to its prominence and well-known dedication to photography. But Edwards subtly employed the example of MoMA as a foil to clarify his own intentions at the Art Institute. When explaining his goals for exhibitions, for example, he underscored his desire to mount single-artist shows of smaller prints rather than “huge ‘expositions'” comprising “gadgety installations” of mural-sized enlargements—a marked contrast to displays like The Family of Man, organized for MoMA by Edward Steichen.[7] Edwards was, in fact, offered the chance to lead the photography department at MoMA, perhaps as an antidote to that approach.[8] When he declined, the position went to John Szarkowski, a photographer whose work Edwards had exhibited in 1960; Szarkowski, a close colleague, would go on to collaborate with Edwards on exhibitions during his influential thirty-year run at MoMA.


At the Art Institute, Edwards aimed to collect and present a historical survey of photography, with particular focus on nineteenth-century artists (still little known at the time) and new talents who had not yet had the opportunity to display their work in a museum. He added three thousand works to the collection, ranging from nineteenth-century travel and expedition albums to groups of photographs by modern masters like Edward Weston and Lewis Hine to the latest images from emerging photographers, with a special focus on Chicago.[9] Edwards organized some seventy-five exhibitions, not including rotations of recent acquisitions; these were almost entirely monographic shows in which he tried “to represent an individual’s use of the camera and a summary of his discoveries.”[10] With only rare exceptions, in the case of a handful of traveling shows or when desired material was otherwise inaccessible, Edwards originated most of the shows himself. In modest-sized galleries—not much more than a hallway until he was granted a larger exhibition space—he presented clean, typically single-hung displays of small prints, letting the artist take center stage.


“Looking at photographs,” Edwards told the photography writer Jacob Deschin in 1965, “enlarges one’s awareness of the world, makes one increasingly more conscious of many things in life one did not know before, inspires fresh perspectives.”[11] For Edwards, photographs existed for the public, and his exhibitions were intended to reach as many people as possible. His philosophy on this point was simple but open: “In Chicago, we knew the public meant everybody, and our hope was to cause them to want to look at photographs.”[12] His accessibility extended beyond the gallery walls and into the Print Study Room, which he kept open five afternoons a week and staffed himself. Many former students and photographers have reflected fondly how this generous gesture allowed them to view photographs from the collection in private contemplation or in the company of the curator.[13] Edwards was equally receptive to viewing new work; a report he drafted on his activities for the year 1967 states that he had examined an astonishing 357 portfolios brought in by aspiring photographers.[14] This exchange was not merely an aesthetic exercise, and it certainly wasn’t academic: Edwards felt that viewing photographs could change one’s outlook on humanity. He articulated this most forcefully in the exhibition text for the 1961 exhibition of Robert Frank’s work: “To the visitor it is hoped that [the photographs] will be an experience the reward of which will be that, after viewing them and returning to the usual sights of the streets and public places, he will have a somewhat increased vision and sympathy for everyday ordinary life and what he may have regarded as commonplace and insignificant.”[15]


Feeling that photography should be reward enough without verbal embellishment, Edwards was skeptical when it came to writing about photographs, believing it “superfluous.”[16] With the exception of a few key texts, the curator found literature on photography to be bombastic and insipid.[17] He wrote to photographer Lyle Bongé before his 1965 exhibition at the Art Institute, warning him against “complex thoughts for the exhibition”: “There is nothing so awful, futile, and hate-provoking as the credo of some photographer-poet, photographer-philosopher, photographer-sociologist-humanity-lover. I am grateful you are not one of those.”[18] When Edwards did write down his opinions about photography—primarily in the form of letters and exhibition-related texts—he filled his prose with literary and art historical allusions. He compared the panoramic Midwest landscapes of Art Sinsabaugh to the format of works by Titian and Rembrandt; Rudolph Janu’s scenes of Chicago to the atmosphere of Albert Camus’s The Stranger; the fluid gestures in Robert Riger’s sports photographs to the paintings of Géricault, Pollaiuolo, and Uccello; the lonely humanity found in Dave Heath’s pictures to the writings of James Baldwin, Jean Genet, and John Rechy.[19]


Edwards’s acquisitions and exhibitions, not surprisingly, followed his personal tastes. He attempted to sum up his preferences in a 1969 letter, “My tastes are hard to define: what affects me is usually what I could never intellectualize about, nor do I feel they should be questioned. I am very self-centered, I suppose, and what I like—no matter what—is anything that makes me feel right and glad I am alive.”[20] Edwards disliked obvious symbolism, didacticism, clichés, propaganda, and overt sociological explanations; he was drawn to empathy, realism, and what he referred to as actuality—in short, ordinary people observed and documented in ordinary moments. He seems to have been attracted by depictions of motion (for example, Danny Lyon’s motorcycle riders and Robert Riger’s athletes) and felt particular affinity for the photographers of Magnum, the photojournalist collective. He championed color work as much as black and white. In a magazine essay accompanying a portfolio of Illinois photographers, Edwards explained that photography needed to be understood on its own terms: “The reminder is always constant that the camera is not an instrument of painting, drawing, or conventional printmaking, but the auxiliary of a medium which has virtues, handicaps, and difficulties peculiarly its own.”[21]


Above all, Edwards prized a certain strain of American realism in photography whose roots he traced to the unvarnished vision of nineteenth-century daguerreotypists. This tradition continued, he felt, in Lewis Hine’s empathetic photographs of immigrants and workers at the turn of the century and in Walker Evans’s poetic documents of Depression-era America. Subsequent inheritors included W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Simpson Kalisher, and later Danny Lyon, “recorder-interpreters who transcend their time and subject matter so that their work is characterized by an enduring contemporaneity.”[22] Indeed, Edwards’s first exposure to this kind of approach was when he encountered Walker Evans’s book American Photographs, a moment he later called one of those “red letter events in life” that “made the world about me entirely new once more and filled it with marvels.”[23] He maintained a lengthy correspondence with Evans, exhibiting his work in 1964 and adding a group of thirty significant works to the Art Institute’s collection. Edwards had a similar experience of profound discovery when he stumbled upon Robert Frank’s The Americans in a Greenwich Village bookshop in 1959. He wrote the photographer in May of 1960 to offer him an exhibition, telling him, “I feel your work is the most sincere and truthful attention paid the American people for a long time.”[24] The 1961 exhibition, the photographer’s first solo museum show, provided early support when Frank’s book faced scathing criticism; soon, of course, it would be acknowledged as a classic. And among the many young photographers whom Edwards nurtured was Danny Lyon, whose photographs of the Chicago Outlaws, working-class residents of the Uptown neighborhood, and Texas prisoners represented to Edwards a further continuation of this vaunted American documentary tradition.


Edwards’s place in photographic history could be cemented by his prescient recognition of talent alone: besides offering the first museum exhibitions to Frank and Lyon, he also mounted the first one-person museum shows of Dave Heath, Ray K. Metzker, Dennis Stock, and many others. The permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago certainly benefited from his exceptional interest in nineteenth-century photography and in select twentieth-century masters. But what truly set Edwards apart as a curator was his remarkable openness to and enthusiasm for a wide range of photographic work—by a Lithuanian priest, a sports illustrator, or a Chilean photojournalist, for example—that still accorded with his ideals of what a camera ought to be used for. Edwards did not set out to establish a canon of photography, although through his insight and his position as one of the few photography curators at an art museum in America in the 1960s he certainly contributed to its formation; many of his choices have withstood the tests of time and shifting tastes, while others now occupy more marginal positions in photography’s history. Rather, he later said, his aims were simple enough: “I wanted people to look at as many kinds of photographs as possible and become able to identify the unique and excellent in any guise in which they might appear.”[25]



Elizabeth Siegel is Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago.



[1] Quoted in Danny Lyon, interview with the author, Aug. 2016. Edwards often explained that he relinquished his own camera work after first seeing the photographs of Robert Frank. See Edwards to Roland Gelatt, Mar. 23, 1961, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.

[2] He contributed articles during those years to the Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago on Max Weber, Odilon Redon, Jean-François Millet, and Umberto Boccioni, among many others.

[3] Edwards wrote that he “had a large part in the organization of” Schniewind’s exhibitions from 1943 to 1951. Edwards to David Vestal, Sept. 8, 1969, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago. He was certainly involved with Walker Evans’s 1947–48 exhibition, and acquired a photograph for his own collection; see Edwards to Walker Evans, Feb. 13, 1948, Walker Evans Archive, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

[4] Edwards to Peter Pollack, Mar. 31, 1959; Getty Research Institute, Peter Pollack Papers; thanks to Philip Brookman for sending this along.

[5] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” Contemporary Photographer 4, 4 (Fall 1963), p. 5.

[6] Edwards to Mrs. Carl E. Salze, Febr. 12, 1969, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago. Other museums with a focus on photography at the time included the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Art.

[7] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” p. 6.

[8] This offer was not something Edwards discussed publicly, but conversations (between the author and those who knew Edwards) and original correspondence confirm it; see, for example, Howard Dearstyne to Edwards, June 12, 1961, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.

[9] See the thematic essays as well as the complete list of acquisitions on this site for greater detail.

[10] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” p. 6.

[11] Jacob Deschin, “Hugh Edwards: Aim for the Realistic Image,” Popular Photography 57, 1 (July 1965), p. 28.

[12] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” p. 6.

[13] See, for example, the interviews recorded on this website with Joel Snyder, Charles Swedlund, and Kenneth Josephson.

[14] Edwards, Typewritten Report for the Year 1967, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.

[15] Edwards, exh. label for Photographs by Robert Frank, 1961, Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, the Art Institute of Chicago.

[16] Edwards, introduction to Enrico Natali: New American People (Morgan &

Morgan, Inc., 1972), n.p.

[17] Among the few such texts that Edwards deemed deserving of praise were Lincoln Kirstein’s essay in Walker Evans’s American Photographs, Jack Kerouac’s introduction to Robert Frank’s The Americans, and Jonathan Williams’s introduction to Simpson Kalisher’s Railroad Men.

[18] Edwards to Lyle Bongé, Jan. 12, 1965, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.

[19] See the exhibition labels and press releases for these photographers on this site (originals on file in the Photography Department, the Art Institute of Chicago).

[20] Edwards to Bill Endres, Mar. 31, 1969, Institutional Archives, Art Institute of Chicago.

[21] Edwards, “A Photography Portfolio,” Art Scene 1, 4 (Jan. 1968), p. 23.

[22] Edwards, review of Railroad Men, by Simpson Kalisher, Infinity: American Society of Magazine Photographers 11, 3 (Mar. 1962), p 19.

[23] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” p. 5.

[24] Edwards to Robert Frank, May 23, 1960, Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, the Art Institute of Chicago.

[25] Quoted in Charles Leroux, “Hugh Edwards: An Unheralded Mentor to Great Photographers,” American Photographer 2, 4 (Apr. 1979), p. 69.


Citation: Elizabeth Siegel, “The Photographer’s Curator,” in Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1959–1970 (Art Institute of Chicago, 2017),

Hugh Edwards: A Gentleman from Kentucky

David Travis



We called him Mr. Edwards. He wore Brooks Brothers suits and Lloyd and Haig shoes. He had a slight build and walked on crutches nearly his entire life. He was cultured and well educated, but not by any institution of higher learning. What he knew and what he taught us was what he had taught himself.


My first conversation with him lasted eight hours. I had recently been hired as a photography curator at the Art Institute, a position from which he had retired two years previously. Because we had not met formally, he sent me a proper letter of introduction, and then some weeks later he appeared in the photography study room to introduce himself in person. After the museum closed, our conversation continued in the Berghoff Restaurant, where every waiter knew him and he them. We took the train to his Hyde Park apartment and spoke until midnight. It may have been then that I learned his full name was Hugh Logan Edwards, Jr., and that he was an only child born in Paducah, Kentucky, while his father was away visiting the Saint Louis World’s Fair. That was his way of avoiding being identified by a mere date, his way of telling me he had entered the world in 1904.


For him, the facts that mattered most were personal. Once, when asking what I intended to say in an upcoming lecture about early snapshot photography, he gently reminded me that Brownie cameras had often been received by children as gifts from a favorite relative, in his case his aunt in Clarksville, Tennessee. George Eastman had named the camera in a marketing ploy targeted at the young. It came with a cardboard casing covered with the Brownie characters created by the popular cartoonist Palmer Cox—well-meaning but impish imaginary creatures that a child might have thought of as invisible companions. Edwards’s most vivid memory of this treasure was that when opened the camera smelled like the inside of a Steinway piano. I realized then and there that I had to learn the history of photography all over again.


I didn’t learn anything from Mr. Edwards in a direct way. No one did. It was always through entanglements with his various areas of expertise. He constantly revealed his links to unanticipated subjects. When he wrote, “You alone have created a reality a universe and existence which are what reality might have been and which make reality tolerable,” he was not addressing a photographer but writing to the director Vincente Minnelli about the film Home from the Hill.[1] In making connections to the history of photography he might mention the essays of Michel de Montaigne, lithographs by Honoré Daumier, French translations of Fyodor Dostoevsky, or Glenn Gould’s interpretations of Bach.


Mr. Edwards had scores of enthusiasms for which he lived his life. In 1928, when he left his first job after high school as a young librarian in the McCracken County Public Library in Paducah, he came to Chicago to study piano. This led him to new passions, one of which was a friendship with Duke Ellington, who received him backstage after each of the many concerts he gave in Chicago during the Depression. It also led him to attend the first and only concert that Elvis Presley gave in Chicago. Then there was his pride in being a card-carrying member of the fan club for the Everly Brothers, who also had family roots in Kentucky. But the foundation for this love of popular music came from his devotion to opera, classical music, and ballet. At one point of personal exasperation, he turned to me and said, “Well, there’s always Brahms,” as if somewhere in that grand style that persevered to the end of the nineteenth century was a life lesson for him, and a redemption.


His enthusiasm for American, English, and French literature was legendary. Bookshelves lined the walls of his apartment. He had a correspondence with Jean Genet, which he later burned. He read and re-read books, seeking to understand why they were written and not their importance as subjects taught in high schools or universities. He felt that Sherwood Anderson, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, Frank Norris, and Thomas Wolfe had been trying to discover America in their sundered ways just as he was. And touchingly, he revealed much about the fabric of his own American life growing up in a four-room shotgun house at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, where his father was an engineer on a steamboat and his grandfather had been a river pilot. He spoke of Paducah often, and more than once he quoted to me the last lines of the first chapter of William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee: “But they are gone too quickly, like a meteor, to become part of your deep own self. The sound of the river-boats hangs inside your heart like a star.”


That was the imposing portal to a life lived in the joy of such history and meaning that confronted me at first. After entering, I knew that if I were ever to truly know a subject as Mr. Edwards did I would have to learn it down to my core. Fortunately, I found out through him that it need not, it could not, be done alone.


When you came to know Mr. Edwards, you came in touch with a man whose character took shape in another era, one that fused cordial manners with fierce convictions. His Southern etiquette served as the initial bond he made with people. This was not just a polite veneer; rather, when he made an offering of friendship, it was informed by a solicitude for the condition of “the average modern human being in our age of distraction and acceleration who seems so difficult to approach.” He used this phrase in a draft of the introduction to his exhibition of the photographs of Robert Frank, the first ever mounted at an American museum.[2] Edwards’s initial viewing of Frank’s photography had been an exaltation, and the misinterpretation of the photographer’s work aroused his ire. In a letter to Frank from July 1960, he revealed his distaste for the reviewers and liberal intellectuals who had finally embraced the photographer after a savage period of criticism: “All those written stupidities by the stupid (bêtes is the word for them) make me almost afraid to go out in the streets. If there are that many of that kind of ‘good’ people around, it’s really dangerous. But when I go out, the people of your world are there and it is their environment (not the Rocky Mountain scenery or walls of crumbling, scaling paint or the baby-kitten-hot-lipped-girl-and-boy paradise) in which I live and am glad. . . . So go on with your presentation of this world which is the only real world—what’s wrong with it anyhow?—it just takes courage to live in.”[3]


There were long evenings and nights when he invited me into that world through his conversation. Most memorable were the rare occasions when he would show his own photographs. The best he made at a roller skating rink in Harvey, Illinois, where he had once moved, perhaps to live near people who reminded him of his working-class neighbors in Paducah. Sometimes others were present at the viewings, and we would huddle close to him at a table in his small apartment as he fed slide after slide through the Ferrania viewer. This ingeniously engineered device had a hinged lid incorporated into its case that formed a projection surface when opened—resulting in a more intimate viewing experience than the usual wall. Illuminated two feet before us blazed two-and-one-quarter-inch square color transparencies depicting the “real” world of which he spoke so longingly. “This is my Bronzino,” he said of a young man’s portrait. Next, after showing us an image of a teenage boy lounging supine on the front fender of the cab of a semitruck, he suggested that it was his equivalent of Michelangelo’s sculpture of Dusk, created for the tomb of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, in Florence. But only rarely did he offer art historical references, as the photos were not taken for that reason. Rather they were personal mementos of much younger companions, captured on film within the story of their own lives, which Mr. Edwards treasured throughout his life.


This was the part of America Mr. Edwards knew best. He was passionate about its worth, and in that letter to Frank about the liberal intellectuals, he wrote, “I ran away from ‘culture’ and accelerated education to spend all my evenings in a large skating rink on the outskirts of Chicago for five whole years. There were many wonders there and I used to wish someone would catch them so they could be kept. Then I found your book and saw you had done it.” With the work of Frank published, Mr. Edwards felt his own mission as a photographer could end.


After his Frank exhibition at the museum, Mr. Edwards encountered Danny Lyon, then a student at the University of Chicago, through two photography contests he judged at the school in 1961 and 1962. The curator immediately became a friend and mentor to the history major and bike rider. After seeing images Lyon made of motorcycle racers in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, he wrote a letter in which he revealed his pleasure for photographs that were more about the subject than the photographer. “This time you have gone farther on and present the exciting subject without getting between it and the camera. . . . You evoke and provoke emotions and are modest about your own self-expression. This is always good. And one of the most difficult things there is to convey to photographers in discussing their work. I like photography best when it is a medium of presentation and does not impose interpretation.”[4]


In some ways, Mr. Edwards was constantly reliving the signal event of his discovery of photography as a medium of substance. In 1963 he wrote of that particular experience, which occurred in 1938 when he first acquired a copy of Walker Evans’s American Photographs: “It is always salutary to change one’s mind and rejuvenating to begin another way of thinking. We are told repeatedly that some artist or writer can recreate the world and our way of seeing it, but we know there are few such instances in a lifetime. . . . The book that brought all of this about was American Photographs by Walker Evans.”[5] Here Mr. Edwards saw the bedrock of the medium’s character that he could celebrate. In a review of Simpson Kalisher’s book Railroad Men, he would describe such work as “images of undistorted truth which are large, deep and general.”[6]


One might guess that either Walker Evans, Robert Frank, or Danny Lyon was Mr. Edwards’s favorite photographer. But it would be futile to ask him, as his courteous manners would not permit a direct answer to such a question. However, in the many times we talked over our fourteen years together, his preferences had become clear to me, and I could tell that, even after a hundred discoveries and infatuations had nourished and washed over him, his fervor for these three never diminished. He said more than once that their work was what the camera was made for.


Eventually the rest of the world began to take over the promotion of the photographers Mr. Edwards had first brought to notice in museum exhibitions or those he had supported intellectually through letters, long conversations, and friendships. He was bothered that others would celebrate the work of these artists for trivial photographic reasons or use it as a platform to proselytize their own critical preoccupations. Because he abhorred the spotlight, he did not wish to lead an ennobling crusade for those photographers as the welter of fans was forming around them. Ever the gentleman, he simply let the lionizers have the stage and lowered his voice. This did not go unnoticed by Frank. In a dedication to the tenth-anniversary edition of The Americans, he wrote: “For Hugh Edwards, First with gratitude and respect to help + encourage when it mattered (1958) and now with regrets not to see in print yr thoughts long before they became fashionable. Robert.”[7]


True to his courteous habits and indirect approach, Mr. Edwards occasionally allowed himself a slightly mischievous response when asked by others to list his favorite photographers. Instead of the usual reply of saying he had no favorites, he would redirect the conversation by asking if the questioner knew the work of the late nineteenth-century photographer Peter Henry Emerson, chronicler of the peasants and landscapes of the English Norfolk Broads. Few did, since only historians of the medium were likely to know much about Emerson. But this was Mr. Edwards’s way of creating a new line of discussion. I like to think it reflected his quest to establish a foothold for other enthusiasms while pleasantly infecting others with them.


That is, at least, the story I have told myself for decades after losing my mentor and friend in 1986. And I imagine he would not argue against it, being a gentleman from Kentucky. Perhaps he would say nothing or maybe quote something else from William Alexander Percy about how stories create another dimension of the truth as memories become spare.


David Travis was Curator and Chair of the Department of Photography from 1972 to 2008.


[1] Edwards to Vincente Minnelli, Jan. 6, 1967. Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago.

[2] Edwards, exh. label for Photography by Robert Frank, 1961, Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago.

[3] Edwards to Robert Frank, July 25, 1960, Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago.

[4] Edwards to Danny Lyon, May 8, 1963, Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis, copy on file in the Photography Department, Art Institute of Chicago.

[5] Edwards, “Some Experiences with Photography,” Contemporary Photography 4, 4 (Fall 1963), p. 5.

[6] Edwards, review of Railroad Men, by Simpson Kalisher, Infinity: American Society of Magazine Photographers 11, 3 (Mar. 1962), p. 19.

[7] Robert Frank, handwritten dedication in The Americans (Grossman, 1969). Hugh Edwards Archive, collection of David and Leslie Travis.


Citation: David Travis, “Hugh Edwards: A Gentleman from Kentucky,” in Hugh Edwards at the Art Institute of Chicago, 1959–1970 (Art Institute of Chicago, 2017),



This website was produced by the Departments of Photography and Digital Experience at the Art Institute of Chicago.


This project was directed by Elizabeth Siegel, Curator of Photography, who wrote and oversaw content. Additional writing and primary research assistance were provided by Frances Dorenbaum, the department’s Dangler Curatorial Intern. Key contributions to the site were also made by Barbara Diener, Collection Manager in the Department of Photography, and Wilson McBee, Assistant Editor in the Department of Publishing.


Collaborators in the Department of Digital Experience included Kelly McHugh, Project Coordinator; Tina Shah, Senior Web Applications Developer; and Kirsten Southwell, Interaction Designer, all under the supervision of Michael Neault, Executive Director.


Other Art Institute staff who were instrumental to the production of this website include Craig Canario, Audio Visual Technician, Media Production and Services; Sasha Furlani, Ryerson University Collections Fellow; Troy Klyber, Intellectual Property Manager, Office of the General Counsel; Douglas Litts, Executive Director, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries and Archives; Autumn Mather, Head of Reader Services, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries; Andrew Meriwether, Audio Producer, Digital Experience; Greg Nosan, Executive Director of Publishing; Jennifer Oatess, Director of Foundation and Government Grants; Bart Ryckbosch, Glasser and Rosenthal Family Archivist, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries; Becca Schlossberg, Exhibitions Manager, Department of Photography; Brandon Scott, McMullan Family Intern in Photography; Deborah Webb, Archives Assistant, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries; and Matthew Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography. Thanks as well are due to Robyn Roslak, proofreader.


For their generosity and deep knowledge, key thanks are due to David Travis, who contributed an insightful essay, and, along with Leslie Travis, granted access to materials from the Hugh Edwards Archive, and Danny Lyon, who shared his recollections over many conversations and allowed us to link to his recording of Edwards. Firsthand accounts of Edwards and his impact were graciously provided by those who were interviewed and recorded for this site: Marie Cosindas, Bruce Davidson, Robert Frank, Kenneth Josephson, Duane Michals, Joel Snyder, and Charles Swedlund. Several others shared information about Edwards, and they are gratefully acknowledged: Gail Buckland, Keith Davis, Jonas Dovydenas, Peter Galassi, June Leaf, Becket Logan, Keith Smith, and Anne Tucker.


For access to other Edwards materials and the permissions to use them here, we acknowledge Claudia Rice, Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust; Leslie Squyres and Tammy Carter, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; Nina Szarkowski Jones; Jeff Rosenheim and Meredith Reiss, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walker Evans Archive; and Lauren Panzo and Peter MacGill, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.


This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Additional support has been provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.


© 2017 Art Institute of Chicago. Materials by Hugh Edwards are © Estate of Hugh Logan Edwards. Certain illustrations are covered by claims to copyright noted in the image captions. All rights reserved.