Monday’s Photography Inspiration – Rosalie Gwathmey

“We all know that if the language isn’t eloquent, no one bothers to finish the story” – Rosalie Gwathmey

 

Gwathmey was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was the daughter of successful architect, Charles C. Hook, and Ida MacDonald Hook. Rosalie married painter, Robert Gwathmey in 1935. She gave birth to their son, Charles Gwathmey, in 1938. He is another American architect.

Gwathmey and her husband were politically active on the left, and she used her camera to point attention to the discrimination faced by working-class African Americans in the South.

Rosalie Gwathmey, Beer Garden, 1946, Gelatin silver print, 4 in x 6 in, contact gallery for price

Rosalie Gwathmey, Charlotte, N.C., 1943, Vintage silver gelatin print, 5 6/16 x 7 4/16 in., Photographer's signature and title in pencil on verso.

Rosalie Gwathmey, Children's Aid Society, NYC, 1947, Vintage silver gelatin print, 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 in., Photographer's signature and title in pencil, The New York Public Library stamp, The New York Public Library - Picture Collection stamp with notations in pencil, annotated "RG103" in pencil on verso.

Rosalie studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Art Students League of New York. She joined the Photo League in 1942 where she studied photography and contributed to Photo Notes as a writer, reviewer and editor. 

Her photography was known for capturing the lives of residents of Southern African American communities. She focused on black life in her home of Charlotte and Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She photographed many of the black sharecroppers and southern townscapes that became the basis of her husband’s paintings.

Rosalie Gwathmey, Parade, Charlotte, N.C., 1947, Vintage silver gelatin print, 7 5/16 x 9 7/16 in., Photographer's signature in pencil, label adhered stating "Charlotte, N.C. Every September first there is a parade for Bishop Grace. He is the Father Divine of the South", New York Public Library stamp, New York Public Library - Picture Collection stamp with notations in pencil, Photographer's N.Y.C. stamp, annotated "RG91" in pencil on verso.

 

Rosalie Gwathmey, Paris, 1950, Vintage silver gelatin print, 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in., Photographer's signature and title in pencil, Photographer's N.Y.C. stamp, The New York Public Library stamp, The New York Public Library - Picture Collection stamp with notations in pencil, annotated "RG67" in pencil on verso.

 

Rosalie Gwathmey, Tobacco Picker, Vintage silver gelatin print, 7 5/12 x 9 1/2 in., Photographer's signature in blue ink, tracing of figure outline in pencil on verso.

While Rosalie’s social documentary photographs offer no stylistic revolution, her life and art reflect significant issues relating to politics and race relations in the United States during the 1940s.

For many years, she served on the executive committee of the Photo League and edited its newsletter, Photo Notes. While in the Photo League, she worked with many radical photographers of the era: Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind, Sid Grossman, Dorothea Lange, Bernice Abbott, Lizette Modell, Walter Rosenblum, Dan Weiner, and Lou Stettner.

When the Photo League disbanded in 1951, Gwathmey gave up photography and started working in a textile design. She destroyed all of her negatives and donated the majority of her photographs to the New York Public Library.

 

Rosalie Gwathmey, Untitled (Berry Picker), Vintage silver gelatin print on mount, 7 9/16 x 9 1/2 in., Photographer's signature in pencil, Rosalie Gwathmey Photographer 1 West 68th St., N.Y.C. Phone Schuyler 4-3177 stamp and annotated "PF106797" on verso.

 

Rosalie Gwathmey, Untitled (Kids), Vintage silver gelatin print on mount, 10 x 13 in., Photographer's signature in pencil, 2 check marks in pencil on verso.

 

Rosalie Gwathmey, Untitled (Ploughman and Scarecrow), Vintage silver gelatin print, 6 11/16 x 9 in., Rosalie Gwathmey Photographer 1 West 68th St., N.Y.C. Phone Schuyler 4-3177 stamp on verso.

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