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Collection Overview

Freund, Gisèle
Gisèle Freund Correspondence
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
4 boxes and 1.4 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-000822 to B-000825


Correspondence of the German-born French photographer and photojournalist Gisèle Freund (1908-2000) with her New York-based literary agents, Marie Rodell, Frances Collin, and Joan Daves, as well as her literary agents' correspondence with others involved in the publishing of Freund's works and some related chapter drafts, publishing agreements, photograph lists, and publicity materials.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence of Gisèle Freund (1908-2000) with her New York-based literary agents, Marie Rodell (1912-1975), Frances Collin, and Joan Daves (1919-1997). Correspondence dates from 1959 through the mid-1980s, though primarily from the 1960s and 1970s, and largely pertains to the English translations of books Freund published during that time, and to a lesser extent, to exhibitions, the reuse of her photographs in other publications, and personal matters. Books represented in the correspondence include James Joyce in Paris: The Final Years (Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965); Le Monde et ma caméra (Éditions Denoël, 1970), published in English as The World and My Camera by Dial Press in 1974; and Photographie et société (Éditions du Seuil, 1974), published in English as Photography and Society by David R. Godine in 1980.

Correspondence files are grouped by literary agent and include letters from Freund to her literary agents on both professional and personal topics; file copies of outgoing letters from her literary agents to Freund; and correspondence of Freund or her literary agents with others involved in the publication of her photography and writings, including David Godine, Laurence Pollinger, Paul Fritz, Deborah Rogers, and others. Earlier correspondence pertains to Freund's relationship with the literary agency Marie Rodell and Joan Daves, Inc., which later became the Marie Rodell-Frances Collin literary agency, while Daves started her own agency. The majority of the correspondence in this collection is with Rodell, but the bulk of correspondence after 1975 is with Collin, who became Freund's primary agent at the firm after Rodell died. While the Daves files are sparser, periodic correspondence reflects that Freund also continued her working relationship with Daves through the 1980s.

While much of the correspondence pertains to publishing and other professional matters, Freund's letters to her literary agents---particularly her letters to Marie Rodell---are frequently intimate and very detailed, spanning various personal subjects and reflections on her life. Letters contain references to Freund's photography, her various political exiles, as well as to prominent artists, writers, and intellectuals, including James Joyce, Miguel Angel Asturias, Man Ray, Colette Audry, André Malraux, Thornton Wilder, Vladimir Nabokov, Henri Michaux, Kingsley Amis, Arthur Koestler, Marcel Marceau, Samuel Beckett, Herman Hesse, William Styron, and many others. Most of the letters from Freund are either typed or handwritten in English on Freund's Paris letterhead, though a significant number of letters in the collection are also in French, and several are in German. There are also some related materials, both interfiled with the correspondence and filed separately, which include publishing agreements, photograph lists, exhibition and printing information, and publicity materials, as well as several corrected chapter drafts of Photography and Society.


Correspondence is arranged by literary agent in rough chronological order, followed by miscellaneous drafts, photograph lists, and related materials.

Collection Creator Biography:

Freund, Gisèle

Gisèle Freund was a German-born French photographer and photojournalist best known for her portraits of writers and artists of the 20th century, as well as for her documentary photography. Born in Berlin in 1908, Freud studied sociology and art history at the Institute for Social Research of Frankfurt University in the early 1930s, where she studied under Theodor W. Adorno and Karl Mannheim and became politically active in anti-fascist circles along with Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. Freund fled Germany for Paris in 1933 due to her Jewish heritage and ties to anti-Hitler plots, eventually becoming a French citizen. In Paris she enrolled at the Sorbonne, where she shifted her focus to photography and received her doctorate in 1936. The same year, Adrienne Monnier published Freund's doctoral thesis, "La photographie en France au dix-neuvième siècle," which promoted the value of photography as a democratizing social force. Freund became close with Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach, and even lived with Monnier for a time in the apartment she had shared with Beach; they introduced Freund to the artists and writers in their literary circle who became the subjects of her most famous portraits. She photographed James Joyce at Beach's bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, in 1938. Upon the 1939 publication of Finnegan's Wake in England and the United States, Time magazine published a color photograph of Joyce by Freund on its front cover. Freund later published the entire series of portraits in her book James Joyce in Paris: His Final Years (1965). She also worked as a documentary photographer for Life magazine photographing the effects of the Depression in England in the mid-1930s.

With Hitler's invasion of Paris looming in 1940, Freund fled to southern France and, later, to Argentina in 1942 at the invitation of Victoria Ocampo, the founder of the influential Buenos Aires-based literary magazine Sur. During this time, she worked for the Louis Jouvet Theatre Company (1943-1944), on propaganda campaigns for France Libre (1944-1945), and as a freelance Latin American contributor for Magnum Photos (1947-1954). She was blacklisted from entering the United States during the McCarthy era due to her radical political ties. After moving to Mexico for two years, where she befriended Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Freund returned to Paris in 1953, where she lived until her death in 2000 at the age of 91. Throughout her life, Freund photographed an extensive number of well-known European and Latin American literary and cultural figures, including James Joyce, Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, Pablo Neruda, George Bernard Shaw, Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, T. S. Eliot, Eva Peron, Jorge Luis Borges, André Malraux, and many others. In addition her own photography, Freund is known for her influential critical works about photography, which include Le Monde et ma caméra (1970) and Photographie et société (1974). Freund also received many honors for her photography, including the Grand Prix National des Arts in 1980 and appointments as Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1982 and Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1983.

Collection History


Purchase, 2016 (AM 2017-57).


No materials were separated during 2016 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in November 2016. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in November-December 2016.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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Credit this material:

Gisèle Freund Correspondence; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-000822 to B-000825