Biography and History

Alan Windsor Richards was a freelance photographer known for the images he captured of people and events associated with Princeton University from the mid-1940s through the late 1960s. Richards was born in Scotland in 1899, the son of a steel magnate. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War I, and immigrated to the United States after the war.

Richards worked as an accountant for several decades after his arrival in the United States. During this period, Richards learned photography from Thomas Edison's personal photographer in exchange for giving the man, a Lithuanian, English lessons. At first, Richards treated photography as just a hobby, but around 1944, he applied for a position as a photographer in Princeton's Palmer Laboratory, which was then home to work being conducted under the Manhattan Project. The University hired him, and Richards' new career as a Princeton-based photographer was born when, his very first night in town, the University Gymnasium burned down and Richards was there photographing the blaze. Richards' position in Palmer Lab ended along with the end of World War II, but he found steady employment doing freelance photography in the Princeton area. His primary client was the University's new public relations department, but he also took photographs for publications, industrial clients, and scientific researchers.

Over the next quarter century, Richards' prolific work included thousands of images of buildings, celebrations, sporting events, and people associated with Princeton. Some of Richards' most popular images are from his photo shoots with Albert Einstein; these include the last portrait of Einstein before his death, and iconic images of Einstein walking between his home and his office at the Institute for Advanced Studies. Richards is also credited with having captured the only known image of Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower together; the three posed for him at an event celebrating Princeton's bicentennial in 1947.

The subject that Richards' photographed most consistently, however, was Princeton University football. Over the more than 20 years leading up to his announced retirement in 1965, he missed photographing only five Princeton varsity football games. In addition to photographing nearly every varsity game, Richards shot images of junior varsity, freshman and 150-lb. division football, he made individual and team portraits of players and coaches, and he captured images of activity at Princeton's Blairstown training camp. His subjects during this period included Heisman trophy-winner Dick Kazmaier and beloved head coach Charles W. Caldwell. When Caldwell Field House was dedicated in 1963, over 100 of Richards' photographs decorated its walls. Richards died in February 1984.

Source: From the finding aid for AC401