Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Mitchell, Margaretta
Margaretta K. Mitchell Working Files on Ruth Bernhard
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1952-2001 (mostly 1983-2000)
4 boxes
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-4


Consists of photographer Margaretta K. Mitchell's working files on the life and work of Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006), a German-born American photographer known for her black-and-white still lifes and female nudes. The working files contain research materials, drafts, and recordings and transcripts of interviews for Mitchell's biography of Bernhard, Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life (2000); drafts of Mitchell's essays that appeared in Ruth Bernhard's book The Eternal Body (1986); as well as correspondence, proofs, financial documents, and publicity materials related to both projects.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of photographer and author Margaretta K. Mitchell's working files on the life and artistic career of Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006), a German-born American photographer known for her black-and-white still lifes and female nudes. The working files pertain to two of Mitchell's projects involving Bernhard, Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life (2000) and The Eternal Body (1986).

A majority of the files relate to Mitchell's 2000 biography of Bernhard, Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life. These consist of research materials, drafts, galleys, jacket and page proofs, correspondence, contracts, financial documents, and publicity materials. The research materials include 16 audiocassette tapes containing sound recordings of Mitchell's extensive series of interviews with Bernhard and her associates, including Michael Kenna, Avery McGinn, David Holman, Gwen Evans, and Saïd Nuseibeh. The interviews were conducted between 1997 and 1999 and provided much of the biography's content. These are accompanied by notes and transcriptions. There are also a few photographs and contact sheets of Ruth Bernhard and her friends as well as photographs of her work. Files on various individuals include correspondence with Mitchell regarding Bernhard or the book project, notes and stories submitted to Mitchell, and occasional photocopies of correspondence between Bernhard and her friends and fellow photographers. Mitchell also contributed text for Bernhard's 1986 book of photographs, The Eternal Body. Working files for this project include several drafts of Mitchell's essays "The Nude: Symbol and Light" and "Toward the Light: Biography of Ruth Bernhard," a copy of an autobiographical essay draft by Ruth Bernhard, and related editorial correspondence, notes, announcements, and brochures. There are also a few original letters to and from Ruth Bernhard throughout.


Materials are arranged into two file groups by book project. Within those file groups, original order was maintained.

Collection Creator Biography:

Mitchell, Margaretta

Margaretta K. Mitchell is a professional and fine art photographer, author, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds degrees from Smith College and the University of California, Berkeley. As a professional photographer, Mitchell photographs people, gardens, interiors and other assignments, and she exhibits her fine art photography internationally.

Throughout her career, Mitchell has drawn attention to 20th century women photographers, whose contributions had often previously been excluded from major exhibitions and reviews. In 1979, Mitchell published Recollections: Ten Women of Photography and curated a traveling exhibition under the same name, which opened at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City. The book and exhibition showcased the work of ten living women photographers, among them Berenice Abbott and Ruth Bernhard. Mitchell continued her collaborative relationship with Ruth Bernhard for many years; she later composed the text for The Eternal Body (1986), Bernhard's first photographic monograph of nudes, and published the first biography of Bernhard, Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life (2000), which was based on her extensive interviews with the artist and her colleagues.

Mitchell's own photography has also been published in various books, including Gift of Place (1969), To a Cabin (1973, in collaboration with Dorothea Lange), Dance for Life: Isadora Duncan and Her California Dance Legacy at the Temple of Wings (1985), Flowers (1991), A History of Women Photographers (1994), English Gardens (1996), The Face of Poetry (2005), and Iconographies (2015). She has also written many illustrated articles for Popular Photography magazine.

Collection History


Gift of Margaretta K. Mitchell in January 2018 (AM 2018-62).


No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in January 2018, with assistance from Matt Oakland '20, Fiona Bell '18, and Julia English '19. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding and folder inventory added by Matt Oakland '20 and Fiona Bell '18 in January-February 2018.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is 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

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Margaretta K. Mitchell Working Files on Ruth Bernhard; 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:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxm): Box 1-4