AUSTIN, Texas – Nov. 8, 2021
The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas is pleased to announce the donation of the Christopher Little Photographic Archive, an important addition to the center’s internationally significant photojournalism collections.
Little’s archive spans his career as an esteemed photojournalist and comprises an expansive photographic portfolio of public figures and international subjects. He is best known for his 21 years with People magazine (1980–2001). His work also has been published in such major magazines and newspapers as Life, Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, Architectural Digest, Town & Country, National Geographic World, and Paris Match. He served as the official photographer to His Highness the Aga Khan from 1980 to 1983.
“Christopher Little’s collection is a rich and fascinating compendium of public figures and historic moments. We are thrilled he has chosen to donate his life’s work to the center,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “Little is known for his compelling portraits of notable people from all walks of life. Beyond the glamour of his celebrity images, however, lies a diverse range of subjects with a truly global perspective, which will provide rich material for future research.”
“I’d be disingenuous if I said that watching 40 forty years of work march out the door wasn’t bittersweet,” said Little. “During the four months of packing boxes, however, I had the chance to revisit assignments and stories—and tens of thousands of images—which were in many cases but vague memories. I had the personal pleasure of feeling that I had set out to accomplish what I’d dreamed about as a child: to be the best photojournalist I could be. Now I have the added pleasure of being recognized for my work by an organization as distinguished and dedicated as the Briscoe Center. And should I be lucky enough that my images give a serious, young photojournalist the opportunity to learn something from me, I will be trebly pleased.”
The donation of Little’s archive was facilitated by Karen Gaines, the co-founder and executive director of the Photography Collections Preservation Project (PCPP). The PCPP, a nonprofit organization, serves as an advisor and consultant for photographers and helps identify the best institutional partners to ensure collections are properly placed and preserved. The PCPP also assisted with the placement of the John Dominis Photographic Archive at the Briscoe Center.
“Christopher Little’s lifelong dedication to image-making and his reputation for forming intimate, meaningful connections with his subjects is what makes this acquisition by the Briscoe Center that much more historic,” said Gaines. “Little’s body of work is a wonderful example of the importance of preserving the endangered life’s work of some of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century. Placing such exceptional bodies of work in the best possible institutions is PCPP’s reason for being.”
About Christopher Little:
Little was drawn to photojournalism from an early age. When he was in high school, he had an unpaid internship in the photo department of the New York Herald Tribune. His mentor there was the Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Nat Fein. Little graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Psychology, but he found himself committed to photography. His coverage of Yale’s antiwar protests, student strikes, inner-city riots, and the New Haven murder trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale led to Newsweek giving him regular work. Those assignments resulted in his first major job, which was to photograph the Watergate hearings for Time magazine.
Over the years, the Connecticut-based photographer became known for his ability to charm and befriend his high-profile subjects. Little credits part of his success to the legendary picture editors he worked with, notably People magazine’s M. C. Marden. Little carried out more than 350 assignments for People magazine, which included portraits of American politicians, celebrities, and so-called “ordinary” people. His work has appeared in major publications and on more than 300 magazine and book covers.
Little’s photography has been featured in critically acclaimed books, including Fallingwater; Racing Through Paradise—A Pacific Passage and Atlantic High with William F. Buckley Jr.; Twenty-five Years in Pictures: The Silver Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan; Architecture and Community, a survey of Islamic architecture with Renata Holod; and Elegant New York: The Builders and The Buildings, an architecture book with John Tauranac.
His photography has been shown in exhibitions at the Yale School of Art and Architecture, Boston Public Library, Nikon House, the International Center of Photography/Midtown, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the National Museum of American History.
About the Little Archive:
The Christopher Little Photographic Archive spans his work from the late 1960s to the 2000s and includes more than 71,000 slides, 21,500 negatives, 5,000 prints, and almost 10,000 contact sheets. It also includes digital materials and ephemera, such as correspondence, tear sheets, books, and posters.
The collection was meticulously organized by Little over the course of several months. As he notes, he “categorized, counted, captioned, and boxed thousands of images. . . . Who knew one’s life work could fit into 50 boxes?” The catalog of the collection fills 145 legal-sized pages.
The Christopher Little Photographic Archive is being processed and is closed to research at this time. The center will announce when the collection is open to researchers.
[Note: Images from the Little archive for media use can be found here: https://utexas.box.com/s/nh7eifvu4elgeftca7eigj8lzg35o9lj. All images © Christopher Little]