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Prints and Photographs Division



Graphic Journalism and Illustration
Photojournalism Collections
George Grantham Bain
Frances Benjamin Johnston
National Photo Company
arrow graphicToni Frissell
New York World-Telegram and Sun
Look Magazine
U. S. News & World Report
Documentary Surveys
Advertising and Propaganda
Pictures: Business and Art
Design Collections
Organizations' Records
Personal Papers



Toni Frissell Collection

Frissell's Career

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Woman wearing tennis outfit, seated on wall. Toni Frissell. 1947 Feb. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

Toni Frissell (1907-1988) began her career as a photojournalist and fashion photographer about the time Frances Benjamin Johnston's was winding down. She demonstrated a versatility equal to Johnston's in her work as a staff photographer for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Sports Illustrated and in her publication of several photographically illustrated books, ranging from A Child's Garden of Verses (1944) to The King Ranch, 1939-1944 (1975).

Frissell is perhaps best known for her pioneering fashion photography and her informal portraits of the famous and powerful in the United States and Europe, including Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy. She is noted for taking fashion photography out of the studio into the outdoors, thus placing an accent on the active woman. She is also known for the imaginative angles, both physical and metaphorical, from which she covered her subjects.

Scope of the Collection

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Eleanor Roosevelt talking with woman machinist during her goodwill tour of Great Britain. Toni Frissell. 1942 Nov. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

The Toni Frissell Collection (340,000 items, ca. 1930-69) includes 270,000 black-and-white negatives, 42,000 color transparencies, and 25,000 enlargement prints, as well as proof sheets, not all of which have been processed for general use. Frissell's own selection of about 1,800 of her best and most representative photographs have been processed for use (LOT 12452) and provide a substantial representation of Frissell's chief interests:

  • children
  • fashion
  • families
  • leisure activities such as eating and drinking
  • members of American and British upper classes
  • well-known personalities
  • sports

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African American woman, seated on ground, fishing, at the Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C. Toni Frissell. 1957 Sept. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

Other processed groups of images include a substantial portion of Frissell's documentation of World War II military and civilian activities, both in the United States and abroad. Frissell focused in particular on women's contributions during the war, including their Red Cross activities and a 1943 visit by Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) director Oveta Culp Hobby to two WAAC facilities.

Frissell documented women from all walks of life and in all situations, sometimes using them to comment on the human condition. Thus, in the single year of 1957, her work ranged from her quiet portrayal of an elderly African American woman enjoying a barefoot moment fishing in the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (LC-F9-02-5706-053-06), to an intimate portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor with her husband Mike Todd and their infant daughter (LC-F9-52-5709-52A-26); and from a lyrical depiction of two nuns clamming on Long Island (LC-F9-04-5709-012-07) to a shot of a woman taking a “snooze” on the beach at Waikiki (LC-F9-04-5711-015-22).

Frissell's personal papers, which have not yet been prepared for general use, will be transferred to the Manuscript Division when the entire photograph collection has been processed.

For rights information pertaining to the Toni Frissell Collection, see:

Searching the Collection

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Nuns clamming on Long Island. Toni Frissell. 1957 Sept. Prints and Photographs Division.

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| bibliographic record

A few Frissell photographs have been cataloged online and can be searched in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Digitized images accompany some records.

A representative range of Frissell's images selected by Frissell's daughter, Sidney Frissell Stafford, have been published in Toni Frissell: Photographs: 1933-1967 (New York: Doubleday in Association with the Library of Congress, 1994).

  • Reproduction numbers for the images included in the book appear at the end.
  • It is best to check with Prints and Photographs Division reference staff before ordering, as adjustments have been made to some of the reproduction numbers.

To look for other images in the collection, onsite researchers should

  • consult the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog in the category Groups in High Demand (Miscellaneous) and the Divisional Catalog under Frissell's name for descriptions of images grouped by subject into LOTs
  • submit a call slip to have desired LOTs retrieved

Go to the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC)

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