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Grayson Mathews photographs

Identifier: PH 349

Scope and Contents note

The collection is comprisesed mostly of photographic prints, in both color and black and white, of rodeos and rodeo performers, towns and buildings, and landscapes in the American West, circa 1970s to 2000s. Included are digital and darkroom prints, original negatives and transparencies, as well as correspondence related to photography.


  • 1971-2005


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public.

Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish or from collection materials must be submitted to Photographs Curator in Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.

If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.

Biographical/Historical note

Grayson Layne Mathews (1948-2007) was born in Eugene, Oregon and grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon. 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.

In 1971, Mathews earned a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship to work on a series to capture the rodeo experience. He traveled the West in his Chevy pickup on the highways and back roads of the American West for the 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.

After working on the rodeo project, he worked as 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. During his later 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 Mathews passed away February 2, 2007 at the age of 58.


16.5 linear feet (33 containers) : 19 flat boxes, 11 manuscript boxes, and 3 half manuscript boxes

Language of Materials



Grayson Layne Mathews (1948-2007) was a photographer known for his work to capture the American West. His most notable series featured rodeo images from 1971-1972, a project supported through a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.

Arrangement note

The collection is arranged into three main series: 1. Prints 2. Negatives, transparencies, and contact sheets, and 3. Personal papers. Within these series, files are arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of the family of Grayson L. Mathews in 2008.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Selected items are available online in the Grayson Mathews photographs, 1970s-1990s in Oregon Digital.

Related Archival Materials note

Two portraits of Grayson Mathews are included in the John Bauguess Photographs, PH338, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. .

Some images by Grayson Mathews are included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection.

Processing Information note

Collection processed by Normandy Helmer. Updated by Paige Kosa.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Grayson Mathews Photographs
Complete Description
Normandy Helmer, Paige Kosa
2009, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA