Steven R. Nickerson Photographic Archive
The Briscoe Center has acquired the photographic archive of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Steven R. Nickerson. A photographer who spent much of his career at the Detroit Free Press and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Nickerson was dedicated to documenting the local communities within which he worked.
“The Nickerson archive covers the full arc of a wonderful career sadly cut short by illness. Steve was known not only for winning two Pulitzer Prizes but also for producing outstanding photographic inquiries into everyday American life,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “I want to thank Steve’s wife, Karen McClean, for placing this phenomenally rich archive here at the center.”
Nickerson was born in in Toledo, Ohio, in 1957. He began his career in photography as an intern at an Ohio paper now known as the Springfield News-Sun. Later he worked at the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky before moving in 1987 to the Detroit Free Press, where he garnered attention with high-profile stories depicting Dr. Jack Kevorkian, death row inmates, and the AIDS crisis. After nearly a decade working in Detroit, he joined the Rocky Mountain News, where his work received praise for the raw, yet sensitive portrayals of his subjects. During his time at the News, he won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of the Columbine High School shootings (1999) and forest fires in Colorado (2003), as well as a World Press Photo award for his unconventional fashion photography (1997). Nickerson died in 2013.
“Steve believed images were ‘made,’ not ‘taken.’ Much of his work demonstrates an unspoken collaboration with his subjects.” said McClean. “When he passed away, I realized fairly quickly that I couldn’t be the one to archive his work. I hope that between the images and some of his writings now stored at the Briscoe Center, he can be remembered as a great photographer with a unique mind and large heart. He’s an example of someone who didn’t always fit in, held himself and those around him to high standards, worked hard to ‘see’ life in new ways, and was generous to those he met.”
The Nickerson archive is comprised of 60 linear feet of photographic prints, film negatives, color slides, correspondence, tear sheets, digital images, personal projects, and artifacts that span the period 1978–2013 and cover many different topics including sports, fashion, human interest stories and political coverage. Particularly noteworthy assignments include “On Stinking Creek, Kentucky,” documenting rural poverty, and the story of Randy Walkowe, a young child who died from an AIDS-related illness. Music photography was a common thread through much of Nickerson’s projects. Over the course of his career, he covered many prominent performers including Ted Nugent, Bruce Springsteen, Kiss, Prince, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie.