Hans Beacham Photographs
An Inventory to the Collection
Writer and free-lance photographer Robert Johannes (Hans) Beacham was born March 31, 1925, in Cameron (Milam County), Texas to Emma Alvis Fisher and Charles Milton Beacham. He died of cancer in Austin on February 8, 2004.
Hans Beacham started his professional career in photography in 1945 after his discharge from the military. After working briefly for the Technicolor Corporation in Hollywood, he moved to the Texas Panhandle in 1946. There he began contributing editorial illustrations to wire services and newspapers. He settled in Austin in 1953 and lived at the Cliff Street Apartments (1911 Cliff Street) from late 1959 or early 1960 until his death.
Beacham’s work appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Time magazine, and educational textbooks for children. He also worked under contract for the University of Texas at Austin, producing literary portraits and photographic essays for publications such as the Texas Quarterly, a periodical for the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and fine arts published from 1958 to 1978. Beacham’s work took him to Mexico and across Europe, and his photographs were exhibited in Austin, San Antonio, and Mexico City. Beacham was particularly noted for his portraits of artists, writers, actors, and poets, including Katherine Anne Porter, T.S. Eliot, Charles Umlauf, and Laurence Olivier.
Beacham’s life partner, University of Texas English professor Dr. Thomas Cranfill, served as Beacham’s editor for many of his curated exhibitions and photographic essays. Beacham and Cranfill often traveled together for their work and lived for a time in Mexico City, where Beacham had a photography studio.
The collection consists of 23 8x10” black-and-white photographs taken by Hans Beacham and printed by the Austin History Center. The photographs document social and commercial life along Austin’s East Sixth Street. Twenty-two of the images appeared in a photographic essay entitled “Portrait of a Street: East Sixth,” which appeared in the Texas Quarterly (Volume 1, Spring 1958). One image (photo 003) did not appear in the Texas Quarterly essay but appears to be an uncropped version of photo 002. Although the photographs are not dated, they are presumed to have been taken in the late 1950s, just prior to their publication.
The photographs document the racial diversity that had characterized life along Austin’s Sixth Street since the turn of the twentieth century. They also document the decline in commercial vitality this part of Austin experienced between World War II and the revitalization of Sixth Street as an entertainment district in the 1970s. Photographs of guns, beer bottles, bars, and pawn shops convey the essence of the skid-row label with which East Sixth Street was often tagged during this time.
Many of the photographs are close-up images of people the photographer encountered along East Sixth. Others provide a glimpse into the commercial activity of the day, including a street vendor selling religious wares (photo 006) and a grocer at an open-air food market (photo 007). While business names are documented in some photographs, few architectural details of the buildings along East Sixth are evident in the images.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The photographs in this collection were reproduced from originals loaned to the Austin History Center by Ms. Virginia Pratt. AHC returned the originals to Ms. Pratt in accordance with the donor agreement.
Hans Beacham Photographs (AR.2006.043). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2006/115
Donation Date: 12/5/2006
Final Processing and Finding Aid By/Date: Frances Rickard/October 2016
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.