Photo Craftsmen Photograph Collection, 1946-1999
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Brief Description:

Photo Craftsmen was a Norfolk commercial photography company that opened in 1946 at 512 West Olney Road. Jim Barry was the proprietor. The company moved to 1043 West 45th Street by 1958, and relocated to 251 West Bute Street by 1961. The company again relocated, to 420 West Bute Street by 1966, and then to its final location at 415 West York Street by 1978. When Barry died in 1976 the company was purchased by employee Len Rothman. Rothman changed the company name to Len Rothman Photography in the late 1990s. The company closed in the early 2000s.

The company donated its remaining photo negatives and associated materials to the Sargeant Memorial Collection in 2016. The collection includes approximately 15,000 photographic negatives (black & white and color, in various formats) and rolled aerial photographic negatives; original, annotated negative sleeves; company ledgers with information on date, subject and client for each negative; aerial photography maps; and aerial camera equipment.

The collection offers a rich photographic record of the Tidewater area. The negatives and prints cover a wide range of subjects, including historic buildings and residential developments, major construction and infrastructure projects, industrial sites, street and harbor scenes, and more intimate scenes of weddings and social events. Notably, about half of the collection consists of aerial photographs, which extensively document the development of area cities and county lands after World War Two.

Records included in the donation show that the company did most of its photographic work on contract, either for local government agencies such as the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, corporations and local businesses, or individual customers.

The content of the Photo Craftsmen collection in many ways mirrors the evolution of post-war Tidewater. Most of the company’s photographs from the 1940s and early 1950s focus on scenes around downtown Norfolk and industrial sites along the Elizabeth River. By the mid-1950s, the photographs begin to document the sweeping redevelopment of urban residential areas in local cities, as well as the rise of residential and commercial areas in the former Norfolk and Princess Anne counties. Photographs through the 1960s continue to record this suburbanization, and also detail major transportation projects across the region, such as new highways and tunnels. By the later 1960s, the collection increasingly includes private photographic work, such as weddings, portraiture, and photographs for use in legal actions. Throughout the years, the collection is leavened by images of the everyday life—beach scenes, sailboat races, business openings, sporting events—that help capture a sense of mid-century Tidewater.

Most of the collection’s negatives are large format (4"x5" or larger), so provide detailed, high-quality images of their subjects. Most are in black and white, although Photo Craftsmen began to make significant use of color film by the late 1960s.

Held at:
Sargeant Memorial Collection
Slover Library
235 East Plume Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Phone: 7574317429
Email: localhistory [at] norfolk.gov
Record Series Number: 001/02/MSS 2016-033
Created by: Photo Craftsmen Company, Inc. (1946-2004)
Volume: 52.0 Boxes
Acquired: 03/25/2016.
Arrangement: The bulk of the negatives are arranged in serial/chronological order. Some negatives that document special construction or commercial projects are arranged in project/chronological order. Larger format negatives (including the aerial photography missions) are arranged in mission/chronological order. The original film envelopes and ledgers are arranged in chronological order. The maps and aerial camera equipment are marked and stored separately.
Biographical Note for Photo Craftsmen Company, Inc. (1946-2004) : Photo Craftsmen Company, Inc. was a Norfolk commercial photography company that opened in 1946 at 512 West Olney Road. Jim Barry was the proprietor. The company moved to 1043 West 45th Street by 1958, and relocated to 251 West Bute Street by 1961. The company again relocated, to 420 West Bute Street by 1966, and then to its final location at 415 West York Street by 1978. When Barry died in 1976 the company was purchased by employee Len Rothman. Rothman changed the company name to Len Rothman Photography in the late 1990s. The company closed in the early 2000s.
Access Restrictions: This collection is open to all researchers.
Subject Index
Buildings
Express highways
Hampton Roads (Va. : Region)
Norfolk (Va.)
Norfolk (Va.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Norfolk County (Va.)
Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority
Portrait photography
Princess Anne County (Va.)
Roads--Virginia--Maps
Urban renewal
Genres/Forms of Material
Aerial photographs
Ledgers (account books)
Negatives (photographs)
Photographs
Languages of Materials
English [eng]
Rights/Use Restrictions: The status of copyright for these materials is governed by Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. C.). Copyright restrictions may apply.
Acquisition Notes: Leonard Rothman (company owner), by donation
PreferredCitation: Photo Craftsmen Photograph Collection, MSS 2016-033, Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, Virginia.