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Clark Family Photography Collection, 1939-2000 | Manuscripts

By E. Aparicio and Ashley Rankin

Collection Overview

Title: Clark Family Photography Collection, 1939-2000Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Predominant Dates:1940-1980
ID: 01/AR0749
Extent: 584.0 Boxes

Materials arrange into 6 series: Series 1: Joe Clark, HBSS: contains negatives and prints of images taken by Joe Clark, publications that feature his work, scrapbooks, correspondence, and writings. Series 2: Junebug Clark, JBC contains negatives, prints, and 35mm slides of images taken by Junebug Clark as well as publications and advertisements featuring his work. Series 3: Jack Daniel's Distillery contains negatives, prints, 35mm slides, and contact sheets of images taken by both Joe and Junebug Clark for magazine ad campaigns featuring the distillery, as well as correspondence, business paperwork, a scrapbook, artifacts, and publications featuring these advertisements. Series 4: Separated Materials contains negatives, prints, 35mm slides, publications, and papers separated from their original location during processing due to size and fragility. Series 5: Media contains optical media and moving images. Series 6: Exhibition Prints contains prints from the Mayborn Conference Exhibition Collection held at the University of North Texas.

The majority of negatives in the Clark Photography Collection are arranged by job number documented in the Clark Family logbook. A database of these job numbers and their content has been created but is not publically available; contact Special Collections staff for research assistance with this collection.

Subjects: Black-and-white photography, Cumberland Gap (Tenn.), Documentary photography, Lynchburg (Tenn.), Photography, Portrait photography
Languages: English

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This collection contains the photographic archive of the Clark Family: Joseph Benjamin Clark (Joe Clark) and his son Joseph Wade Junebug Clark (Junebug Clark). The collection contains predominantly photographic prints and negatives, as well as advertisements, business records, scrapbooks, clippings, publications, and personal writings.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Consisting of over a million photographic images, the collection contains still photographic prints and negatives in a variety of formats documenting Joe and Junebug’s photographic work, images shot for various ad campaigns over more than four decades, as well as correspondence and personal writings. The collection also contains business records and exhibit prints from the family’s photographic studio, and scrapbooks and clippings documenting the family’s photographic legacy.

Collection Historical Note

Joseph “Joe” Benjamin Clark, H.B.S.S

Joseph Benjamin Clark was born in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee on October 4, 1904, one of ten children.  Raised in a log cabin, he quit school in the fifth grade and was apprenticing to be a carpenter. In 1934, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, lured by the job prospects of the booming auto industry, but took a job as a night watchman and janitor for the J. L. Hudson Store.

At the age of 35, Joe Clark began his photography career on a dare. Stories of his Appalachian up-bringing became regular office conversation. A fellow coworker at J. L. Hudson gave him a $12 camera, two rolls of film, and a $0.95 handheld flash, telling him to “go take some pictures of those mountains and people you’ve been lying about.” On the train ride to Tennessee, he taught himself how to operate the camera, having never held one before. During his first visit to Cumberland Gap, Joe Clark shot the Mountain Funeral series and documented other scenes of rural life.

The images were exhibited in the front window of the J. L. Hudson store. Soon after, they were published in National Geographic, Life, and Coronet Magazine. In 1940, these images caught the attention of a New York based editor for Life Magazine, who purchased them and ran them in a 14-page spread.

Joe returned home numerous times throughout the 1940’s to document his friends, family, and Appalachian culture, creating a body of work later known as the “Tennessee Select.” These images are gathered into a sub-series of the same name and features some of Joe Clark’s most notable images. His early focus on rural life following the Great Depression earned him the nickname “Hillbilly Snap Shooter,” or H.B.S.S for short.

While still working his night shift at J. L. Hudson’s, Clark began working part-time at a local camera shop. He processed film, ran errands, and learned the art of photography from local professionals. During this time, he took correspondence lessons to learn how to read and write, and began his lifelong practice of writing hillbilly philosophy. Eventually published in local magazines and newspapers, the writings caught the attention of Bernice Krent in 1943. Krent contacted Clark, saying “I think you’re pretty smart;” and Joe immediately phoned her. They were married within the year. On their honeymoon, Joe Clark continued to document the disappearing culture of the Appalachian people along with an editor from National Geographic who joined them.

Joe’s photography started gaining national attention. In 1944, he quit his job at Hudson’s and opened his own photography studio with his wife. In the early 50s, Joe worked with multiple clients, creating successful ad campaigns for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and the American Motor Association.

During the mid-50s, Joe photographed the whiskey making process for the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. In the process of photographing this advertising campaign, he captured the spirit of the Distillery, its employees, and the surrounding community of Lynchburg. Often juxtaposed against his own hillbilly philosophies, these images illustrated the lives and experiences of the individuals behind the product, as well the surrounding community. Joe Clark and his son, Junebug, shot the majority of all Jack Daniel’s ad images for nearly four decades. The Clark Family motto, “Pictures that tell a story,” can be found stamped on the back of almost every print by Joe and Junebug.

Joseph Benjamin Clark died on December 3, 1989. He was 85 years old.

Wade Junebug Clark

Joe’s son, Junebug, began taking photographs as soon as he was able to hold a camera. He sold his first image at the age of five, while on an assignment with his parents for Stroh’s Brewery. At the end of the day, Junebug took a picture of his mother relaxing with a Stroh’s beer, and the art director purchased these images instead of the ones taken by his father.

Within the year, Junebug worked as a photographer for the Detroit Times. He photographed his kindergarten classmates, Cub Scout activities, and his friends for the paper’s Sunday Supplement. The paper employed him for nine months until union complaints of child labor law violations forced the Times to take Junebug off the payroll. News that the paper had terminated the “world’s youngest professional photographer” bolstered Junebug’s career. Soon after, he published photos in Life, Look, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Junebug majored in Graphic Arts at Ferris State College, then transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology in New York to study photo illustration before enlisting in the Marine Corps. He served as a photographer, documenting his experiences during service, and returned to Rochester upon his discharge.

Junebug worked as a motion picture photographer and a catalog photographer before starting his own freelance photography business. His clients included Federal Mogul Corp., Jack Daniel’s Distillery (alongside his father, Joe Clark), Eli Lilly and Co., and Anaheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.

Subject/Index Terms

Administrative Information

Repository: Manuscripts
Access Restrictions: This collection is not restricted.
Use Restrictions: Reproduction and publication of materials in this collection are subject to the policies of the UNT Special Collections department. Copyright restrictions may apply.
Physical Access Note:

This collection is stored off-site and requires a minimum of 24 hour notice prior to use.

Portions of this collection have been digitized are available in the UNT Digital Library. A link to the digitized collection can be found at the top of this page beside the collection name.

Preferred Citation: Clark Family Photography Collection, University of North Texas Special Collections
Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid was revised in October 2017 by C. Jacobs to clarify the collection content and standardize dates.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

Series 6: Exhibition PrintsAdd to your cart.
This series contains prints from the Mayborn Conference Exhibition Collection.
Item 1: Joe and JunebugAdd to your cart.
Item 2: TypewiterAdd to your cart.
Item 3: BaptismAdd to your cart.
Item 4: Boy in MudAdd to your cart.
Item 5: Young MaidenAdd to your cart.
Item 6: Moonshine Still up the HollowAdd to your cart.
Item 7: Going to Sunday MeetingAdd to your cart.
Item 8Add to your cart.
Item 9: Baptist Preachers in the RainAdd to your cart.
Item 10Add to your cart.
Item 11: Jack Daniel's Ducks in a LineAdd to your cart.
Item 12: Rickyard Workers coming in from the RainAdd to your cart.
Item 13: Two Women in Jack Daniel's Bottling LineAdd to your cart.
Item 14: Man Reading the PaperAdd to your cart.
Item 15Add to your cart.
Item 16: JimmyAdd to your cart.

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