“I was always trying to find strange things” – the Lucinda Bunnen Papers

by Cori Williams, Collection Services Processing Intern, Lucinda Bunnen papers.

This is the third post in a series on the accessioning and processing of the Lucinda Bunnen Papers.

Well, I quickly filled up my once spacious cubicle. It was decided that I would begin by accessioning the first 18 boxes. This was helpful in terms of reconfiguring my brain a bit to understand the role of the archivist. We are generating maps in the form of finding aids for researchers to use in order to discover the material they are looking for. The goal being to limit the amount of time between the collection’s arrival to the Rose and the ability for researchers to access it. The first 18 boxes are a good representation of the overall collection, including negatives, slides, prints, correspondence, photo albums, scrapbooks, writings; a good chunk to cut my teeth on.

Keeping with original order, I did not reorganize her print boxes. Lucinda had cataloged them in 2011 and created a corresponding inventory list. While some shuffling and changes have occurred since then, they are still relatively intact. Since I didn’t rehouse any of her early prints, this was the first time I was able to spend more time with her early darkroom work.

In her papers, Lucinda has the syllabus from one of her first photo classes. It describes an assignment in which everyone was supposed to take pictures of windows. While going through the prints to describe the contents of the box, some of the corresponding window images presented themselves. Lucinda had made a comment in another one of her writings, that she approached the assignment differently than her peers. She photographed one window at different times versus having each image be a different window. It was a little reward to find the images I had previously only read about.

Class syllabus from the Lucinda Bunnen Papers (MSS 1530)

“Window #1”, “Window #2”, Window #3” from the Lucinda Bunnen Papers (MSS 1530)

I opened the photo application on my iPhone and searched the word “window”. 4,316 images came up as a result. Not all were accurate, but it was interesting to scroll through them a bit and think about how I would have approached this project. There would be a big difference between what I took during an early photography class and today.

On a post-it note Lucinda had put on one of her negative binders, she writes,

“So many pictures I wish I had printed- Interesting how taste changes. -I was always trying to find strange things- Can’t remember anybody’s name!”

Post it on one of Lucinda Bunnen’s negative binders

One of her more well-known images is “Shrouded Figure”. It has been printed in various different sizes over the years both digitally and in the darkroom.

“Shrouded Figure” by Lucinda Bunnen

Lucinda kept the contact sheets for each roll of film. By comparing the image to others on the same roll you can get an insight into how Lucinda chose, created, and edited her own work. Originally shot on film in medium format, you can see in the contact sheet (top row, third from the left) how she drew in black lines noting how she wanted to crop the image while printing it in the darkroom. As she said herself, it is interesting how taste changes, but with her film, contact prints, darkroom prints, and digital prints, all together, her collection is able to provide insight into her selection process during each time period. Her choices as an artist are shown in the steps between what was present on the film negative and what her prints depicted.

Contact sheet from the Lucinda Bunnen Papers (MSS 1530)