Carol M. Highsmith

Meet Photographer Carol M. Highsmith

Before Women’s History Month ends I want to say how grateful I am for the work of Carol M. Highsmith. She is donating her life’s work of more than 100,000 images, copyright-free, to the Library of Congress. Future generations will learn a great deal about our present by studying her work.

Carol M. Highsmith, born 1946 in North Carolina,  is a photographer, author, and publisher who has photographed the United States, including the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. She photographs the entire American vista (including landscapes, architecture, urban and rural life, and people in their work environments) in all 50 US states as a record of the early 21st Century. Future generations will learn a great deal about our present by studying her work.

Highsmith was directly influenced by two female photographers: Frances Benjamin Johnston and Dorothea Lange.

Johnston produced studies of southern plantations, African-American and American Indian schools, national parks, and studio portraits of prominent Americans from the 1890s to 1950s and Lange is remembered for her fieldwork for the federal Farm Security Administration among migrant workers and other dispossessed families during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Decades after Lange’s work, Highsmith photographed surviving shacks in the Weedpatch “Okie” camp in Kern County, California, that was the setting for much of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath.

The online collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive at the Library of Congress features photographs of landmark buildings and architectural renovation projects in Washington, D.C., and throughout the United States. The first 23 sets of photographs contain more than 2,500 images and date from 1980 to 2005, with many views in color as well as black-and-white. The archive is expected to grow to more than 100,000 photographs covering all of the United States.

This video talks about her current project:

Her generosity in dedicating the rights to the American people for copyright free access make this Archive a very special visual resource.

To access her work you can visit the Carol M. Highsmith Archive or explore using:

Samples of her Work


Top image: 
Carol M. Highsmith self portrait in front of a broken mirror at the Willard Hotel in 1980.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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