Guide to the Seema Weatherwax photographs M0868

Sheryl Nonnenberg
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Green Library
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford 94305-6064

Language of Material: English
Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
Title: Seema Weatherwax photographs
creator: Weatherwax, Seema, 1905-2006
Identifier/Call Number: M0868
Physical Description: 3 linear ft.
Physical Description: 3 box(es)
Date (inclusive): 1933-1993
Abstract: Seema Aissen Weatherwax was a photographer and social activist who was part of the Film and Photo League, worked with Ansel Adams in Yosemite, and shot Woody Guthrie and migrant workers at a California FSA camp. Collection contains prints and negatives, as well as an original typescript by her husband John Weatherwax.


Collection is open for research; materials must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use.

Publication Rights

Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

Preferred Citation

Seema Weatherwax photographs, M0868. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

Biography / Administrative History

Emigrating from Tsarist Russia with her parents in 1913 to escape persecution and the conscription act, Seema Aissen graduated from high school and began studying science courses in Leeds, England. A few years after her father's death, her mother took the three daughters to Boston to join relatives, and Seema became involved in photography. She moved to Southern California in 1929, lived in Tahiti for a year, and upon returning to Los Angeles joined the Film and Photo League in 1934. Ansel Adams asked her to run his darkroom in Yosemite in 1938. The following year she assisted Adams with the first Camera Workshop in Yosemite. In 1941 Seema met the writer Jack Weatherwax, and together with folk singer Woody Guthrie visited the Shafter Farm Security Administration Camp, managed by noted civil rights advocate Fred Ross. At Shafter she photographed Dust Bowl refugees and their surroundings. The Weatherwaxes moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1984. Following the death of her husband, Seema continued her activism, including working with the NAACP and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and at the age of 95 organized the first exhibition of her work. She passed away in 2006, two months shy of her 101st birthday.

Scope and Content of Collection

Collection contains prints and and negatives of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake (commercial prints not by Weatherwax) ; Woodie Guthrie, Fred Ross, and the Shafter farm labor camp, 1941 ; a Los Angeles labor demonstration, 1945 ; the Hollywood strike, 1945 ; and many formal and informal photographs from the Yosemite camera workshops with Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, 1941-1942. Also included is a 24-page typescript, "The Queen of Montgomery Street," by her husband, John M. Weatherwax.

Related Materials

University of California, Santa Cruz also holds a collection on Seema Weatherwax. The Archives of American Art holds a collection of John Weatherwax papers related to Rivera and Kahlo.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Agricultural laborers--California.
Earthquakes--Long Beach.
Shafter (Calif.)
Weatherwax, Seema, 1905-2006
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984
Guthrie, Woodie, 1912-1967.
Ross, Fred, 1910-1992
Weatherwax, John M.
Weston, Edward.
Lancelot, Sir
Film and Photo League (U.S.)


Series 1. Photographs

box 1, folder 1

Long Beach Earthquake, 1933 (photographer unknown) 1933

Physical Description: 53 photos in 16 sheets
box 1, folder 2

Yosemite, Ansel Adams Camera Workshop 1938 - 1940

Physical Description: 19 sheets

Scope and Contents

Lee Warren, Ansel Adams' secretary, First Camera Workshop, Bests Studio, Yosemite, Seema's Apartment, Party at Studio in Yosemite, Ansel Adams in Yosemite, Seema Weatherwax, Virginia Adams 1993
box 1, folder 3

I am an American Day, Los Angeles 1940 - 1950

Physical Description: 15 sheets (photographs and negatives)
box 1, folder 4

Sir Lancelot, Trinidad Performers 1940 - 1950

Physical Description: 8 sheets
box 1, folder 5

Demonstrations for Jobs, Los Angeles, 1945

Physical Description: 6 sheets
box 1, folder 6

Hollywood Strike 1945, Shafter Farm Camp Negatives 1941

Physical Description: 22 sheets
box 1, folder 7

Russian Delegates to the U.N. Conference 1945

Physical Description: 5 sheets
box 1, folder 8

Shafter Farm Labor Camp 1941

Physical Description: 4 photographs in 4 sheets
box 1, folder 9

Shafter Farm Camp, the Californians Magazine [1 of 2] 1941

Physical Description: 14 photographs, 15 sheets
box 1, folder 10

Shafter Farm Camp, The Californians Magazine [2 of2] 1941

Physical Description: 11 photographs in 11 sheets
box 1, folder 11

Return to Shafter Farm Camp, 1994 1994

Physical Description: 26 color photographs in 10 sheets

Series 2. Papers

box 1, folder 12

Typed Labels for Shafter Camp Photographs 1991

box 1, folder 13

Notes for Filmstrip: El Camino Viejo, nd

Physical Description: 4 typed sheets
box 1, folder 14

Script for "Who Wants War?Who Wants Peace?"[in English and Spanish] nd

Physical Description: 18 typed sheets
box 1, folder 15

American Negro History filmstrip script nd

Physical Description: 4 typed sheets
box 1, folder 16

Correspondence, U.S. Dept. of Interior 1983

Physical Description: 2 typed sheets
box 1, folder 17

Typescript by Jack Weatherwax, "The Queen of Montgomery Street" nd

Physical Description: 24 typed pages
box 1, folder 18

Correspondence, various nd

Physical Description: 61 typed pages

Scope and Contents

correspondence re Woody Guthrie photographs, obituaries of Fred Ross, correspondence regarding The Californians article, Biographical sketch of Seema Weatherwax
box 1, folder 19

The Californians Magazine (2) 1992, 1993

Physical Description: 2 issues of The Californians Magazine

Scope and Contents

typed biographical sketch of Seema WeatherwaxThe Californians, Vol.9 No.4, The Californians, Vol.10, No.4

Series 3. Matted photographs

box 2, folder 1

Portraits, people 1942 - 1946

Physical Description: 6 matted black and white photographs

Scope and Contents

baby in yard, 1944, Ansel Adams, 1946, Lee Warren (2) 1946, Gypsy Mary - Las Vegas, 1942, Old Miner - Las Vegas, 1942
box 2, folder 2

Yosemite, High Sierras 1938 - 1941

Physical Description: 6 black and white matted photographs

Scope and Contents

High Sierras, Storm Yosemite, Storm Yosemite, 1938, Yosemite, 1940, Yosemite, 1941, High Sierras 11,000 feet, 1946,
box 2, folder 3

Nature, Scenes from Train 1940 - 1946

Physical Description: 4 black and white matted photographs

Scope and Contents

Scene from Train, 1946, Scene from Back of Train, 1946, Untitled, 1940, Monterey, 1946

Series 4. Audio-visual Materials

Conditions Governing Access

The Media materials require at least two weeks advance notice to use in order to allow staff time to have use copies made from the original items.
box 3, othertype 1

El Taller de Grafica Popular nd

Physical Description: 1 filmstrip
box 3, othertype 1

California's Gold nd

Physical Description: video

Scope and Contents

Episode #601, "Weed Patch"
box 3, othertype 2

Taller de Grafica Popular 1996

Physical Description: video

Scope and Contents

Taller de Grafica Popular, Who Wants War, Who Wants Peace