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, also in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.
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 three series.
Series 1: Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project, 1962-2008
Sub-Series 1.1: Photographic and Digital Prints, 1962-1986
Sub-Series 1.2: Proofs, 1979-1986
Sub-Series 1.3: Contact Sheets and Negatives, 1964-1987
Sub-Series 1.4: Interviews, 1980-1982
Sub-Series 1.5: Site Notebooks, 1981-1985
Sub-Series 1.6: Exhibition Materials, 1967-2008
Sub-Series 1.7: Newspaper Clippings, 1983-2007
Series 2: Civil Rights Era Materials, 1963-1974
Sub-Series 2.1: Black and White Prints, 1963-1974
Sub-Series 2.2: Proofs, Negatives, and Contact Sheets, 1963-1968
Sub-Series 2.3: Slides, 1969
Sub-Series 3: Personal Papers, 1966-2007
Biographical / Historical:
Francisco Luis Espada Roig, commonly known as Frank Espada, was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico in December of 1930. Espada 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. After serving in the Air Force, he began his career in documentary photography.
In 1951 or 1952 he began attending the New York Institute of Photography on the GI Bill. Influenced by important New York-based photographers Dave Heath and Gene Smith, Espada became intent on pursuing what he called his "first love"- documentary photography. He specialized in photographing the Puerto Rican diaspora.
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 have for ten years. During this time, Espada became heavily involved in the New York community and the Civil Rights Movement, organizing voter registration drives, rent strikes, and marches for civil rights.
In the 1970s, he was a Fellow with the Ford Foundation working with the Drug Abuse Council, where he created a large body of work. In 1979 he received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which allowed him to pursue his "life-long dream of shooting a major documentary." He began working on his book, The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, where he documented Puerto Rican communities and the Puerto Rican experience around the United States, including Hawaii and Guam.
In 1985 he 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."
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. In 2007, his book, The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Themes in the Survival of a People, was published.
In his later years, he turned to color photography and landscapes. 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.
Donated to the Archives Center in 2016, by Frank Espada's son, Jason Espada.
Collection is open for research.
Reproduction restricted due to copyright or trademark. See repository for details. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.