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Diana Davies. Photo by Stephanie Smith.

Diana Davies.

Photo by Stephanie Smith.

Diana Davies Photographs

Diana Davies is a well-known photographer of folk performers and festivals. Davies photographed the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in its earlier years. Born in 1938, Davies grew up in Maine, the Catskills, New York City, and Boston. Davies left high school at 16, and worked sweeping out coffeehouses, which gave her the opportunity to listen to music while she worked. She became interested in theater and music. In Greenwich Village, she began doing some sound technician work, and then got interested in photography. She taught herself how to develop and print photographs in a darkroom, and began photographing in theaters, shooting from behind the scenes. Her theater photos are at Smith College in Northampton, where she presently lives. In the early 1960s, she began working with the editors of Broadside Magazine, Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen. She developed an interest in human rights work, which grew from her contact with Sis and Gordon, and also her own family background. She also worked as a photographer in a wide range of settings, eventually working for major national and international media including the New York Times, covering such events as the war in Biafra, and traveling to Mexico, Cuba, and Portugal on assignment.

In addition to her photographs of folk musicians, Davies’ other major photographic work includes the Civil Rights Movement, the Peace Movement, and theater. Davies began photographing at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, which she covered for a number of years. She knew Ralph Rinzler, and found him a vibrant, alive person excited by all aspects of culture. He introduced her to Bessie Jones from the Georgia Sea Islands, and in 1966 she made a photographic journey to the islands. Her work from this trip is included in the collection.

The Diana Davies photographs, the bulk of which date from 1963-1992, consist of images taken by Diana Davies at various stages of her career. Locations include the Festival of American Folklife, the Newport Folk Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Poor People's Campaign, various peace and protest marches and outdoor performances, New York City, and the Georgia Sea Islands. The collection includes contact sheets, negatives, photographic prints, and slides. The collection was originally acquired in 1989, with further accruals donated to the RRFAC up until 2004.

For questions about image reproductions and permissions, please contact Cecilia Peterson at or call (202) 633-7931.

A detailed SOVA finding aid with associated digitized materials is available here.

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