Grayson Mathews Photograph Collection 1970s-200s
Fine Art Photograph Collections
Grayson L. Mathews photographs, 1970s-2000s
Collection number: PH349
Extent: 14 linear ft. (33 containers)
Grayson Layne Mathews (1948-2007) photographed the American West, creating a signature series of rodeo images from 1971-72 through funding from an NEA fellowship. Much of his life's work focused on documenting environments--natural, agricultural and constructed--in the West, the southeast, and his home in the Klamath Basin of Oregon. The collection includes negatives, darkroom and digital prints.
Preferred citation: [Identification of item], Grayson L. Mathews photographs, PH349-[item number], Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
On-line access: Additional Grayson Mathews images are available in our Digital Collections.
Images shown: The first image shown is from the Rodeo series and captures cowboys loading into their bucking chutes, Grayson L. Mathews collection, PH349_039, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299. Second image is a portrait of Grayson Mathews from 1987, courtesy of the Mathews family. Third image is Klamath Falls, Oregon 1977, Grayson L. Mathews collection, PH349_002, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon 97403-1299.
In 1971 Grayson Mathews, traveling in his Chevy pickup on the highways and back roads of the American West, began a two-year photographic project to document the lifestyles of professional rodeo cowboys. With his Leicas and Nikon F cameras loaded with Kodak Tri-X and 1,000 ASA speed 2475 Recording Film (fastest black and white film available at the time) he photographed in dusty, sun-baked arenas of small-town fairgrounds and smoky, dimly lit big city auditoriums. Away from the fury of competition, he documented behind the scenes in the lonesome bars, cafes and motels.
In 1971 Mathews earned a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship to work on the project. He was among a group of talented young students of social documentary and fine art photography who studied at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among teachers who most encouraged him was John Collier, a renowned anthropologist who had photographed for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression.
After working on the rodeo project, he was a freelance professional photographer and teacher at the university level in California, South Carolina and Virginia. Throughout his career his work was widely shown in galleries throughout the United States. One of his landscape series is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Art Museum.
In 2001 he returned to his hometown of Klamath Falls, Oregon to be near his family. In recent years his work included a series of photographs that depicted natural and human transformation of the Klamath Basin landscape. His family recalls that nothing made him happier than to drive the back roads searching for and capturing the perfect photograph.
Grayson Layne Mathews, who was born in Eugene, Oregon, passed away February 2, 2007 at the age of 58. In his memory, his mother, Audrey, and sisters, Wendy and Ciry, and brother, Baron, have donated his archives to Special Collections.
We are grateful to photographer John Bauguess, Grayson Mathews' friend and colleague, who has assisted in acquiring and arranging the Mathews collection.
Scope and Content Note
The collection is arranged by size, by subject and by format. Many of the images have multiple versions and copies. The rodeo negatives are in one binder; the remainder of the BW negatives are arranged chronologically. Generally, we do not have source files for Mathews' color work, which was born digital.
Mathews' black and white work was created in the 1970s and 1980s. The Rodeo series, funded by National Endowment for the Arts, was created in 1971-1972.
- Box 1: Prints, BW: Rodeo
- Box 2: Prints, BW: Natural environment, palmettos; nudes; historic; misc
- Box 3: Prints, mixed: Built environment, rural, urban (BW & color) & suburban, Klamath Falls
- Box 4: Prints, color: Trucks & The Road; memento mori; misc.
- Box 5: Prints, color: Natural environment, Klamath landscape, plants, fires
- Box 6: Prints, color: Agricultural environment, vistas, irrigation, structures & equipment
- Box 7: Prints, color: Agricultural environment, hay and livestock
- Box 8: Prints, BW: Natural environment, palmettos; misc.
- Box 9: Prints, BW: Built environments
- Box 10: Prints, color, matted: Environments, various
- Box 11: Prints, color: Environments, various
- Box 12: Prints, BW matted: Built environment, So. Cal. housing development
- Box 13: Prints, BW matted: Built environment, The Road
- Box 14: Prints, BW matted: Built environment
- Box 15: Prints, BW: Built environment; Lake Tahoe
- Box 16: Prints, BW: Natural environment, palmettos, forests
- Box 17: Prints, color, matted: Agricultural environment; built environment
Negative binders: (20-33 in preparation)
- Box 18: Rodeo negatives & proofsheets
- Box 19: Negatives & proofsheets, 6/1976-8/1977
Two portraits of Grayson Mathews are included in the John Bauguess Photographs, PH338. Bauguess and Mathews were close friends; images of Bauguess are included in the Mathews photographs. Some Mathews images are in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Publication rights: Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish images must be submitted to the Photographs Curator of Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Access restrictions: None.
Provenance: Family of Grayson L. Mathews, 2008
Processed by: Normandy S. Helmer
Date Completed: 2008