The Jack Robinson Archive preserves and promotes the legacy of Jack Robinson as a photographer and as an artist. When he passed away in 1997, Jack left behind thousands of negatives organized into hundreds of brown envelopes. Inside each were negatives in glassine sleeves and, occasionally, an original contact sheet. Also left behind were Jack’s date books, correspondence, a multitude of advertising test prints, model releases, and Vogue magazine tear sheets, as well as a selection of photographs that Jack had printed in preparation for his first gallery show. In all, these boxes contained the complete output of a working artist, the sum total of a photographer’s work from the early 1950s through the early 1970s.
Upon discovery of this treasure trove, Dan Oppenheimer and Susan Carr Oppenheimer, the heirs to Jack’s estate, created an organization that would expose to the world the work of Jack Robinson. Dan was intimately familiar with Jack’s work as a stained glass designer, but no one could have predicted the wealth of images in these envelopes. Working with Eric Rachlis, then of the Hulton Archive, they organized the envelopes into categories.
Over time, the envelopes were classified, removed from their original packaging, and stored in acid-free sleeves and files. Through research, the subjects were identified and, where possible, the photographs were dated. Quick scans were created of many of the images to ease the discovery process. Using her incomparable skill as a researcher, Professor Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman of Arkansas State University paid special care in working through photographs from Jack’s early years in New Orleans.
In 2003, Dan and Susan created The Jack Robinson Archive, LLC. Their ultimate dream was to fulfill Jack’s dream of a gallery exhibition, a book, and possibly even a museum retrospective of his photographs. The Jack Robinson Gallery was opened in Memphis, Tennessee to display Jack’s photographs and stained glass designs, as well as to promote the work of other artists.
At this time, thousands of Jack’s photographs have been scanned and cleaned. The work, however, is far from complete. There is still a wealth of images that have not yet been processed, including thousands of fashion images from Jack’s pre-Vogue period, from 1957 to 1965. Jack’s work can now be purchased through the website, and with the publication of Jack Robinson On Show: Portraits 1958-72 in November 2011, another of Jack Robinson’s dreams has finally come true.