Gordon Anderson collection

Collection Data

The Gordon Anderson Collection documents Anderson's professional career in New York, events at the Apollo Theater, and some of the personalities and news events connected with the African American community in New York, from the late 1940s to the 1980s. Images of Anderson include individual and group portraits which depict him at various times during his New York career, though mostly from the 1980s. Images from the Renaissance Ballroom and the Royal Theater are limited; the collection does not include any images from the Palace, Capitol, or Paramount Theaters.Anderson's documentation of the Apollo Theater, taken from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s, consist primarily of candid shots of performers arriving at the Apollo, preparing for shows or greeting friends backstage, and their on stage performances. Many of the performance photos were made into photomantages which depict either individual performers, or all of the performers appearing on a particular night. Some of the photomontages included views of the Apollo marquee. Also depicted, from the mid-1980s, are views of the Apollo Theater's marquee and lobby, civic leaders and celebrities, and promotional activities surrounding the Apollo's reopening. The series also includes views of the Apollo's controversial Jewel Box Revue, featuring a troupe of female impersonators, taken during the early 1960s.The Personalities series depicts several entertainment celebrities, politicians, civic leaders, and other notable figures, mostly from New York. These images consist mainly of candid portraits taken at various events and social gatherings, as well as New York radio and television stations where Anderson had been interviewed. The General Subjects series includes events such as the National Urban League's Beaux Arts Balls at the Waldorf-Astoria (1950s-1980s); behind the scene shots on the set of the film "The Cotton Club" (1983-1984); the Village-Chelsea branch of the NAACP, joined by civil rights activists Daisy Bates and James Farmer, demonstrating against Woolworth's (1960s); and Jean Blackwell Hutson's retirement party at the Harlem State Office Building (1984).
Anderson, Gordon, 1920- (Photographer)
Dates / Origin
Date Issued: 1947 - 1989
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division
Shelf locator: Sc Photo Gordon Anderson Collection
Anderson, Gordon, 1920-
Armstrong, Louis, 1901-1971
Basie, Count, 1904-1984
Bates, Daisy
Brown, James, 1933-2006
Davis, Sammy, Jr., 1925-1990
Farmer, James, 1920-1999
Hutson, Jean Blackwell, 1914-1998
Holiday, Billie, 1915-1959
Waters, Ethel, 1896-1977
Sissle, Noble, 1889-1975
Sutton, Percy E
Van Peebles, Melvin, 1932-
Wilson, Jackie
Apollo Theater (New York, N.Y. : 125th Street)
National Urban League Guild
Ink Spots (Musical group)
Jewel Box Revue (Musical group)
Cotton Club (Motion picture : 1984)
African American entertainers
African American singers
African American musicians
African Americans in the performing arts
Entertainers -- New York (State) -- New York
Female impersonators
Music-halls (Variety-theaters, cabarets, etc.) -- New York (State) -- New York
Nightclubs -- Harlem (New York, N.Y.) -- 1940-1989
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
Content: Some photographs have photographer's handstamp or signature on verso: Anderson's handstamp often identifies him as Gordon "Doc, El Fabuloso" Anderson and "El Fabuloso"; his signature is often Gordon "Doc" Anderson.
Content: Some photographs have descriptive information on verso.
Content: Attached to the verso of a number of photographs are gallery announcements for Anderson's exhibitions and photocopies of publicity collages that he created.
Biographical/historical: Gordon Anderson, a self-taught photographer, is best known for documenting the musicians and entertainers who appeared at the famous Apollo Theater, in Harlem, from 1948 to 1975. Anderson, who had originally intended to become a pianist/composer, began his career taking photographs backstage at the Royal Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, as a means of getting close to the African American entertainers that he admired. In 1948, with the encouragement of Billie Holiday and Frank Schiffman, then owner of the Apollo, Anderson moved to Harlem. For nearly thirty years, Anderson photographed many entertainers who performed at the Apollo: he would arrive at the theater and shoot the early show, print his photographs during intermission, and then later head backstage to sell them as souvenirs to the performers. He became known as "Doc Anderson," the "unofficial" Apollo photographer.
Biographical/historical: Anderson's photographic career also included work at the Renaissance Ballroom, and the Palace, Capitol, and Paramount Theaters. In 1975, when the Apollo closed, Anderson remained active photographing celebrities and New York City events. In the mid-1980s, during the reopening of the Apollo Theater, Anderson returned to document the event. Anderson's career also included a brief period, in the early 1950s, in which he filmed performers with an 8 mm. movie camera at their favorite Harlem haunts.
Biographical/historical: Anderson is noted for his candid photographs, and would sometimes include himself in some of his images. His style is often recognized by the distinctive photomontages he created of Apollo Theater performers. Anderson's work has been exhibited on numerous occasions, and has been used to illustrate a number of publications on Harlem history, entertainment, and related subjects.
Publications: Some photographs have been published in "Showtime at the Apollo," by Ted Fox (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983)
Physical Description
Extent: 401 items (1.8 lin ft., 6 boxes)
Extent: 217 photographic prints: silver gelatin, black and white ; 26 x 26 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 183 photographic prints: color ; 21 x 30 cm. and smaller.
Extent: 1 photomechanical print: black and white ; 26 x 21 cm. and smaller.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12490621
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 8acca770-de0d-0137-97d8-13c9abd78037
9 results found