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Frank Espada Photographs

Espada, Jason  Search this
Espada, Frank, 1930-  Search this
22 Cubic feet (59 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Digital images
Contact sheets
Audio cassettes
Slides (photographs)
1962-2008, undated
Collection consists of photographic materials taken by Frank Espada, mostly images from the Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, which documents these communities across the Unites States. In addition, there are materials relating to his earlier work documenting civil rights activities and HIV/AIDS awareness, also in the United States during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Scope and Contents:
Photographs and negatives taken by Frank Espada, mostly images from his most well-known body of work, The Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, which consists of several hundred prints and thousands of negatives of Puerto Rican communities across the Unites States. The purpose the project was to establish the national presence of Puerto Ricans in the United States, to celebrate Puerto Rican culture and Latinidad, and to make a political statement.
Collection is arranged into five series.

Series 1: Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, 1962-2008, undated

Sub-Series 1.1: Photographic and Digital Prints, 1962-1986, undated

Sub-Series 1.2: Proofs, 1979-1986, undated

Sub-Series 1.3: Contact Sheets and Negatives, 1964-1987, undated

Sub-Series 1.4: Interviews, 1980-1982, undated

Sub-Series 1.5: Site Notebooks, 1981-1985, undated

Sub-Series 1.6: Exhibition Materials, 1967-2008, undated

Sub-Series 1.7: Newspaper Clippings, 1983-2007

Series 2: Civil Rights Era Materials, 1963-1974, undated

Sub-Series 2.1: Black and White Prints, 1963-1974, undated

Sub-Series 2.2: Proofs, Negatives, and Contact Sheets, 1963-1968

Sub-Series 2.3: Slides, 1969

Series 3: Personal Papers, 1966-2007, undated

Series 4: Out of School Youth (OSY) Project, 1989

Series 5: Youth Environment Study (YES) Project, 1989-1991
Biographical / Historical:
Francisco Luis Espada Roig, later known as Frank Espada, was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in December 1930. He and his family migrated to New York City in 1939. He attended public school and after high school, briefly attended City College of New York. In 1949, he joined the Air Force.

In 1952 he married his wife, Marilyn. They had three children, Lisa, Jason, and Martin. Espada began working for an electrical contractor to provide for his family, a job he would hold for ten years.

There followed a second stint in the Air Force, during the Korean War, and then, in 1954, Espada began attending the New York Institute of Photography on the GI Bill. In the late 50s and early 1960s, influenced by mentors such as important New York-based photographers Dave Heath and the legendary W. Eugene Smith, Espada became intent on pursuing what he called his "first love," documentary photography, but this dream had to be delayed.

From the early 60s on, he became heavily involved in the New York community and the Civil Rights Movement, organizing voter registration drives, rent strikes, and marches for civil rights. He photographed many subjects in New York throughout the 1950s and 1960s, including the civil rights era. Because he was close to Puerto Rican activists and communities, he photographed these as well.

In the 1970s, he was a Ford Foundation Fellow working with the Drug Abuse Council. In 1979, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, he was finally able to receive income from photography. This fellowship allowed him to pursue his "life-long dream of shooting a major documentary" on the Puerto Rican diaspora. He documented Puerto Rican communities and the Puerto Rican experience around the United States, including Hawaii and Guam.

In 1985, Espada moved to San Francisco and was given the opportunity to teach at the UC Berkeley Extension Program. He discovered that he loved to teach, which resulted in what he referred to as "eighteen of the best years of my life," and he was revered by his students.

In 1989 he joined forces with the Youth Environment Studies (YES), documenting the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2005 he retired from teaching and continued working on his book, encompassing his documentation of Puerto Rican communities. The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, reproducing many of his photographs with his incisive, poignant text was published in 2007, twenty-eight years after the Diaspora project had begun.

Frank Espada was an activist for justice and an important documentary photographer in the "socially conscious" tradition, who wrote: 'The purpose of showing my work is to get young people thinking, to stimulate their minds and hearts, to make conditions known, and to attack injustices wherever they exist." In his later years, he turned to color photography and landscapes for personal artistic expression. He passed away in February of 2014 from a heart problem.
Materials at Other Organizations:
Duke University Libraries

Frank Espada papers and photographs, 1946-2010 and undated, bulk 1975-2010

The Frank Espada Papers and Photographs collection consists largely of photographic prints, contact sheets, proofs, and negatives, chiefly dating from the mid-1970s through 2010, relating to Espada's Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, his project work on indigenous Chamorro communities in Micronesia, primarily in Guam, Tinian, and Saipan, and his work documenting HIV/AIDS outreach and education in San Francisco. The largest body of materials, which includes photographs as well as manuscripts and recorded interviews, derives from Espada's work with the Puerto Rican communities which spanned several decades. A smaller group of materials, nineteen prints, associated contacts and negatives and several folders of documents, were created through Espada's activism in the Civil Rights Movement for voter registration and school desegregation in New York City from 1962-1970.

Other materials include research files on documentary topics he was currently investigating; materials used in preparation for his many photography project exhibits, large and small; teaching syllabi and notes from his photography courses; awards and memorabilia; and other manuscript and printed materials from his career in photography.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs

The Puerto Rican diaspora, between 1979 and 1981

83 photographic prints

Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library and Archives

[Frank Espada: artist file]

1 folder. Folder may contain clippings, press releases, brochures, reviews, small exhibition catalogs, resumés, other ephemera.
Related Materials:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Quince Años Documentation, NMAH.AC1163

López Negrete Communications Advertising Collection, NMAH.AC1413

Exiles in America: Cuban Pedro Pans and Balseros, NMAH.AC1377

Division of Science, Medicine, and Society HIV/AIDS Reference Collection, NMAH.AC1134

Manuel Quiles Films, NMAH.AC0765

Puerto Rico Division of Community Education Poster Collection, NMAH.AC0615

Spanish Language Broadcasting Collection, NMAH.AC1404

Goya Foods, Incorporated Collection, NMAH.AC.0694

John-Manuel Andriote Victory Deferred Collection, NMAH.AC1128
Collection was purchased from Frank Espada's son Jason Espada with funds from the Latino Initiatives Pool.
Collection is open for research. Some ethnographic materials in this collection are restricted because participants did not sign release forms. Restricted materials are part of series 4 and housed in boxes 57 and 59. Material may not be accessed or used until 2064.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Photography of immigrants  Search this
Documentary photography  Search this
Immigrant communities  Search this
Photographers  Search this
Immigrants -- Puerto Rican -- 20th century  Search this
HIV/AIDS awareness  Search this
African American youth  Search this
Latinos in American society and culture  Search this
Hispanic American youth  Search this
Posters -- 20th century
Newsletters -- 20th century
Catalogs -- 20th century
Digital images -- 20th century
Contact sheets -- 20th cenury
Interviews -- 20th century
Notebooks -- 20th century
Negatives -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Audio cassettes -- 20th century
Slides (photographs) -- 20th century
Frank Espada Photographs, circa 1962-2008, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Frank Espada Photographs
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Online Media:

Lewis Hine at Ellis Island: The Photography of Immigration and Race, 1904-1926

Ureña, Leslie J.  Search this
Object Type:
Smithsonian staff publication
Electronic document
Ureña, Leslie J. 2007. Lewis Hine at Ellis Island: The Photography of Immigration and Race, 1904-1926.
Data source:
Smithsonian Libraries

Lewis Hine at Ellis Island: The Photography of Immigration and Race, 1904-1926 (Workshop)

Ureña, Leslie J.  Search this
Object Type:
Smithsonian staff publication
Ureña, Leslie J. 2007. Lewis Hine at Ellis Island: The Photography of Immigration and Race, 1904-1926 (Workshop) [presentation]. Los Angeles, California.
Data source:
Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

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