Ellie Lee Weems photographs series
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Ellie Lee Weems photographs series

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Auburn Avenue Research Library
Creator: Weems, Ellie Lee, 1901-1983
Title: Ellie Lee Weems photographs series
Dates: 1928-1975
Quantity: 461 photographs.
Abstract:The photographs series contains photographs taken in Jacksonville, Fla. by Ellie Lee Weems, an African American photographer, from the years 1928 through 1975 with subjects including awards and honors; business and commercial personalities and establishments; church and civic groups; entertainers and celebrities; families; funerals; graduation exercises and cap and gown cameos; landscapes; Masonic orders and related auxiliaries; performing arts; portraits of children, women, and men; professional training; and schools. The series also contains some correspondence, an envelope, and five photographs reserved for research. Five photographic contact sheets from reproduced from photonegatives in the collection were donated by the Smithsonian Institution's Center for African American History and Culture in gratitude for the Auburn Avenue Research Library's contribution to an exhibit on African American photographers and their documentation of African American families and life.
Identification: aarl89-014

Biographical/Historical Note

Ellie Lee Weems is a "native son" to both Georgia and Florida. He was born in McDonough, Georgia in 1901. After his studies with well known African American photographer, C. M. Battey, at Tuskegee Institute, Mr. Weems lived in Atlanta, Georgia from 1922 until 1929. He married Willie Mae Morris in 1925. After an apprenticeship with an Atlanta photographer, Weems established his professional career on Auburn Avenue, and became a partner of the Paul Poole photography studio in 1928. These years form the Alpha of his life, contributing to the Georgia legacy in African American photography. The Omega of his life takes place again in Georgia, completing a cycle that embraces 50 years devoted to photographing the Jacksonville, Florida community.

Accompanied by his wife, an outstanding senior public health nurse in Jacksonville, Weems returned to Georgia to spend the last years of his life in the care of his nephew and niece, Mr. George and Mrs. Edna Rice, whose family is of Jacksonville. In apprenticeship to his uncle in Jacksonville, Mr. Rice acquired a trade that would allow him, in addition to teaching, to serve several High Schools in Atlanta, as the official Year Book photographer. Mr. Weems' collection of photonegatives (negative film and glass plates), photographs and client file cards were brought with him, and his nephew prepared himself to devote the rest of his life to the processing.

Mr. Weems established himself as an integral part of every occasion and event, a documenter of the moments the Jacksonville African American community and other community members wanted to remember-to cherish. The Weems Jacksonville photography studio is the setting for many of the 461 photographs in the Auburn Avenue Research Library Archives Collection.

Mr. Ellie Lee Weems is well remembered as professional, kind, gentlemanly, well-liked and revered. His work documents a great community with ties to educational and business institutions still existing today throughout the Southeast and other regions of the United States. One of the largest collections accessible to the public, cohesively documenting an African American community, Weems records, for over five decades, the generations of Jacksonville citizens. Other ethnic groups can also find representation in the work of Ellie Weems. They enjoyed the professional environment of Mr. Weems' studio, the on-site documentation of civic groups, or are among the professional models of the Winona School of Photography.

Citizens of Jacksonville remind us that Mr. Weems was always there, at every mark of history for the people and their community. The dignity and deep sacredness of the spirit of the people surface in these photographs to illuminate and illustrate the times, the growth of the community during the depression, the transitions from World War II to the challenged times that produced an integrated society in the deep south-marks of history of interest to our region, our nation, our world.

Scope and Content Note

Mr. Weems was called on-site to photograph group activities and events which, when listed with his studio work, create the relative categories by which the Collection is defined and ordered: Awards and Honorings; business and commercial personalities and establishments; church and civic groups; entertainers and celebrities; families; funerals; graduation exercises and cap and gown cameos; landscapes; masonic orders and related auxiliaries; performing arts; portraits of children, men and women; professional training at the Winona School of Photography; schools; and others. The titles and listings of these categories are given in the "Photographs Collection" Finding Aid.

These photographs form a very special segment of the larger Weems Photographic Negative Collection, as they are the original Weems photographs accompanying the Collection at the time of purchase by the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Many of these photographs bear Mr. Weems' handwriting and identification notes on the back.

The Weems "Photographs Collection" reflects the personal and community-wide history of Jacksonville in the several processing techniques mastered by the photographer: "Black and White" photographs; "Color Hand-tinted" photographs; "Sepia Tinted" photographs; "Kodak Color Prints" made possible by Kodak color processing on Kodak paper in the 1960's. The Collection contains five photographs, distinctive from the other photographs, which have been isolated for research. There are two pieces of correspondence and an envelope that has Mr. Weems' handwriting.

The body of the Collection is found in the Black and White photographs. In a few instances, the Collection contains both the Black and White photograph and the Color Hand-tinted photograph of the same subject, actually the same photograph. These are grouped respectively with the Black and White or Color Hand-tinted photographs. By these we see a demonstration of the photographer's experimentation with color and his artistic talent. These are forerunners to the color prints that would be made possible in the last decades of his career by Kodak processing. The Sepia Tinted photographs are beautiful and evenly tinted. This processing in earth tones was very popular, and reflects beautifully the varying color of the African American subjects. The Color Hand-tinted and Sepia Tinted processes are developed to a high degree, and enhance the finished product for all the ethnic groups photographed in this Collection. There are only a few Color Prints in the Collection.

The "Five Photographs", isolated for research, are each distinctive from the other, and as a group, to be distinguished from the other photographs of the Collection. The settings, poses, in the studio and on-site, are unique in the Collection. The dress of the subjects may indicate earlier years than the other decades of photographs. These five Black and White photographs show less depth of tone. They may represent photographic restorative work and photograph repair.

In keeping with provenance, the Collection retains the two items of Correspondence referencing work done by Mr. Weems. The Correspondence speaks to the great affection that his clients felt for him. An envelope included in the Collection is inscribed in the photographer's handwriting with the name of a group and an identification number for a corresponding photographic negative.

The Weems "Photographs Collection" is representative of the 59 years of Mr. Weems' professional career, with photographs actually spanning 57 of those years, from 1928-1975. The 461 photographs of this Collection give the public access to the accomplished, sensitive work of Ellie Weems.


Organized into six subseries:

(1) Black and white photographs
(2) Color hand-tinted photographs
(3) Sepia tinted photographs
(4) Color prints
(5) Other items
(6) Contact sheets

Index Terms

African American business enterprises--Florida--Jacksonville--Photographs.
African American entertainers--Florida--Jacksonville--Photographs.
African American photographers--Florida--Jacksonville--History--20th century.
African American photographers--Georgia--Atlanta--History--20th century.
African Americans--Education--Florida--Jacksonville--Photographs.
African Americans--Florida--Jacksonville--Social life and customs--20th century--Photographs.
African Americans--Florida--Jacksonville--Societies, etc.--Photographs.
African Americans--Religious life--Florida--Jacksonville--Photographs.
Weems Photo Studio (Jacksonville, Fla.).

General Notes

The "Photographs Collection" of the Weems Photographic Negative Collection is defined under the accession number 89-014, having been purchased in 1989, and being the 14th collection acquired in that year. There are 9 Hollinger Boxes in this Collection. The folders organized in each Hollinger Box by category are numbered consecutively following the box number in the accession number (Ex. 80-014-01.020). Within their respective categories, the 461 photographs are placed three (3) to a folder as a rule, and four (4) or two (2) to a folder to complete the category. The photographs of this Collection are a unique segment of the Weems Photographic Negative Collection, and are to be distinguished from the photographs that will be developed from the photonegatives. These are the photographs kept together by provenance.

The "Photographs Collection" is organized by the natural groupings of activities and events into categories. Titles have been assigned and subtitles given to identify or classify the different events and activities in the major title categories. "On-site" listings in the Finding Aid refer to activities, photographed outside of the studio setting, where the setting cannot be readily identified. "Studio" refers to subjects photographed in Mr. Weems' studio. "On-site" and "Studio" serve as major headings under which many activities photographed are listed by subtitle.

Black and White photographs represent the greatest number of photographs in the Collection. The "Color Hand-Tinted" and "Sepia Tinted" photographs are listed as separate categories, organized by the same system of the larger body of the Collection, and grouped after the body of the Collection in Black and White photographs. The "Color Prints" are organized in the last box of the Collection with the "Five Photographs" for research and the "Correspondence", as these are elements which contain only a few items unique to the Collection.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Ellie Lee Weems photographs series. Ellie Lee Weems photographic negative collection. Archives Division, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.

Processing Information

Processed by Dr. Constance J. Carter.


Restrictions of Access

There are no restrictions on the research use of this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Prior permission from the Research Library must be obtained in writing before any portion of this collection can be published or reproduced.

Container List


Series I: [Black-and-White photographs]



11Business/Commercial/ Home
3Celebrations Awards/Honorings
4Celebrations Awards/Honorings
5Celebrations Birthdays
6Celebrations Birthdays
7Celebrations Parties/Special Gatherings
8Churches Exteriors/Interiors
9Churches Exteriors/Interiors
10Churches Exteriors/Interiors
11Churches Anniversary/Pastors
12Churches Awards
13Churches Choirs
14Churches Choirs
15Churches Congregations
16Churches Congregations
17Churches Congregations
18Churches Pastors with Groups
19Churches Pastors with Groups/Satirical Cartoon
20Churches Special organizations
21Churches Special organizations
22Churches Usher Groups with Pastors
23Churches Usher Groups with Pastors
24Churches Women and Children
25Churches Youth Groups



21Civic Groups On-site/Citizens Organizations Teachers' Organizations
2Civic Groups On-site/Citizens Organizations Teachers' Organizations
3Civic Groups Women's Organizations
4Funerals Men
5Funerals Men
6Funerals Men
7Funerals Men
8Funerals Women
9Funerals Women
10Graduation On-site/Church Affiliated
11Graduation On-site/Church Affiliated
12Graduation On-site/Professional
13Graduation On-site/Schools
14Landscapes Architect's Drawing Buildings Waterfront



31Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
2Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
3Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
4Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
5Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
6Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
7Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis
8Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
9Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
10Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
11Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
12Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
13Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
14Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
15Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
16Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
17Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
18Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
19Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
20Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
21Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
22Masonic Eastern Star - Daughters of Isis with Brethren
23Masonic Orders
24Masonic Orders
25Masonic Orders
26Masonic Orders
27Masonic Orders
28Masonic Orders
29Masonic Orders
30Masonic Orders



41On-site Families
2On-site Families
3On-site Performing Arts
4On-site Women/Full-length
5On-site Women/Portraits
6On-site Women's Groups
7On-site Women's Groups
8School Groups Elementary
9School Groups Pre-School (Kinder-garten)
10School Groups Professional (Teachers' Association)
11Social Groups Clubs/Organizations
12Studio Ensembles/Men Entertainers Music Vaudeville
13Studio Ensembles/Women Entertainers
14Studio Graduation/Cap and Gown Men Portraits
15Studio Graduation/Cap and Gown



51Studio Children Full-length
2Studio Children Portraits
3Studio Children Portraits
4Studio Couples Men and Women Full-length
5Studio Families
6Studio Families
7Studio Families Women and Children
8Studio Men Full-length Portraits
9Studio Men Portraits
10Studio Men Portraits
11Studio Men Portraits
12Studio Women Artistic Pose Full-length
13Studio Women Portraits
14Studio Women Portraits
15Studio Women Portraits
16Studio Women Portraits, 6 copies
17Studio Women Portraits
18Studio Women Portraits



61Weddings Church
2Weddings Church
3Weddings Church
4Weddings Church/On-site
5Weddings On-site
6Weddings On-site
7Weddings On-site
8Weddings Studio
9Weems Professional Training Winona Graduate School of Photography
10Weems Professional Training Winona School of Photography

Series II: [Color hand tinted]



71Color Hand-Tinted Landscapes
2Color Hand-Tinted Still-Life
3Color Hand-Tinted Studio Cap and Gown
4Color Hand-Tinted Studio Children
5Color Hand-Tinted Studio Couples Men and Women Full-length
6Color Hand-Tinted Studio Men Portraits
7Color Hand-Tinted Studio Men Portraits
8Color Hand-Tinted Studio Men Portraits
9Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Full-length
10Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
11Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
12Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
13Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
14Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
15Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
16Color Hand-Tinted Studio Women Portraits
17Color Hand-Tinted Weddings

Series III: [Sepia tinted]



81Sepia Tinted Commercial Training
2Sepia Tinted Landscapes
3Sepia Tinted On-site Women
4Sepia Tinted Studio Children
5Sepia Tinted Studio Children
6Sepia Tinted Studio Couples Men and Women Full-length
7Sepia Tinted Studio Couples Men and Women Portraits
8Sepia Tinted Studio Entertainers (Celebrities)
9Sepia Tinted Studio Families
10Sepia Tinted Studio Graduation Cap and Gown
11Sepia Tinted Studio Men Full-length Portraits
12Sepia Tinted Studio Men Portraits
13Sepia Tinted Studio Men Portraits
14Sepia Tinted Studio Men Portraits
15Sepia Tinted Studio Women Full-length
16Sepia Tinted Studio Women Portraits
17Sepia Tinted Studio Women Portraits

Series IV: [Color Prints]



91Color Prints - Kodak Film/Kodak Paper On-site Business/Commercial Schools Elementary
2Color Prints - Kodak Film/Kodak Paper Studio Families

Series V: [Other items]



93Correspondence Robert Kemp Wright February 3, 1950 Miss Marie Priestro Myrtle Ave. (ND)
3Envelope "Venetian Club/#1142" - Weems' Handwriting
4Five Photographs Research Project Couples Men and Women Men Women

Series VI: [Contact Sheets], 1935-1938

Reproduction additions to the Weems' "Photographs Collection" - Contact sheets for reproductions used in Smithsonian Institution/Anacostia Museum/Center for African American History and Culture - exhibit and publication.
These five photographic contact sheets, reproduced from photonegatives of the Weems Photographic Negative Collection, are being added as a result of an expression of gratitude and appreciation by Ms. Deborah Willis Kennedy, Director of the Smithsonian Institution's Center for African American History and Culture. The Auburn Avenue Research Library contributed to the Center's exhibit on African American photographers and their documentation of African American families and life. A subsequent publication, Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present (2000), incorporated these five Weems images.
Weems Photonegative Number (WPN #) refers to cataloguing system used by Mr. Weems for organizing the photo-negatives in his collection and to reference the photonegative in his business file cards. The WPN# is used here in the identification of the original Weems photonegative. The Accession no. refers to the folder and box assignment of the contact sheets being added to the Weems "Photographs Collection".
The identification of the subject is the result of notation system used by Mr. Weems on the actual photonegative, and may represent the subject in the image, and/or the person, organization or institution placing the order for the photograph. This information is located in the upper left hand portion of the border of the photonegative. The subject identification corresponds to the information given on the Weems business file cards.
The dimensions given in the description refer to the dimensions of the contact photograph resulting from reproduction of the photonegative. The year note is from the lower right hand corner of the border of the photonegative. This year note is also recorded on the corresponding Weems business file card.



95Brewster Hospital Graduation WPN# 481, 1935, 5"x7" - Black & White Glossy - contact sheet from original negative
[Three Young Women/in Nurses Uniforms - with Flowers - Standing]
[Full view - Studio (?)]
5Jones, Mint WPN# 432, 1935, 5"x7" - Black & White Glossy - contact sheet from original negative
[Woman/holding book - Seated]
[3/4 view - Interior- On-site]
5Tyres, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest WPN# 830, 1938, 3 ¼"x5" - Black & White Glossy - contact sheet from original negative
[Man and Woman/in hats - Seated, Standing]
[Full view - Studio]
5Rev. and Mrs. Brooks - 1936 Center St. (house) - WPN# 1489, 1937, 5"x7" - Black & White Glossy - contact sheet from original negative
[Man and Woman/on steps of Home - Standing]
[Full view - Home Exterior - On-site]
5Polty Brooks and Mother/with car in front of School - WPN# 941, 1937, 5"x7" - Black & White Glossy - contact sheet from original negative
[Two Women/with Car in front of School - Standing]
[Full view - Exterior - On-site]
(May be photographed across the street from Weems Studio)