Mary Randlett The House Next Door photographs, circa 1980  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Randlett, Mary, 1924-
Mary Randlett The House Next Door photographs
circa 1980 (inclusive)
190 photographic prints (1 box)
Collection Number
Photographs used in the 1981 book The House next door: Seattle's neighborhood architectureby Lila Gault, with photographs by Mary Randlett
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
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Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.

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Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Mary Randlett has been photographing the people, places, and arts of the Northwest for over half a century. She was born Mary Willis on May 5, 1924, in Seattle, Washington. Her father, Cecil Willis, ran Superior Reprographics, a blueprint company. Mary's mother, Elizabeth Bayley Willis, was a curator and marketer of international folk arts and crafts and was intimately involved in the Northwest art scene. Mark Tobey and Morris Graves were among the artists she befriended, and Mary Randlett would photograph many of her mother's artist friends later in life.

After receiving her first camera at age 10, Randlett made her first set of prints, depicting Orcas Island, in 1937. Her next camera, which she used during high school, was a Kodak 620 folding camera. When her younger sister went to Whitman College, Randlett went along. At Whitman, she used a campus darkroom to process and develop her photographs of friends, professors, and the campus.

After graduating in 1947 with a degree in political science, Randlett returned to Seattle, where she apprenticed herself to fashion photographer Hans Jorgensen, who had been Louise Dahl-Wolfe's assistant. On Jorgensen's advice, Randlett purchased a twin lens Rolleiflex camera and began shooting portraits of families and children. Although Jorgensen gave her tips on processing and developing her photographs, he never influenced her photographic technique. Randlett's portraiture was, however, influenced by the informal approach of George Mantor. In 1950, she married Herbert Randlett, and they had four children: Bob, Mary Ann, Peter, and Suzy.

In 1963, Randlett photographed poet Theodore Roethke at his home in Seattle. He died just two weeks later. Before long, she was shooting portraits of Roethke's students, including future Pulitzer prizewinner Carolyn Kizer. Visual artists -- including Kenneth Callahan, William Cumming, Philip McCracken, Leo Kenney, and countless other well-known names in Northwest art -- soon followed. These photographs are not merely portraits; they also document artists at work, installations of pieces, and gallery shows. Randlett has photographed over five hundred artists and writers.

But she did not limit herself to portraiture: nature photography is of great importance to Randlett, and she has experimented with lighting and techniques throughout her career. She collaborated with the poet Denise Levertov on Lifting the Veil: The Northwest Landscapes of Mary Randlett, which features Levertov poems inspired by Randlett's nature photographs. Architectural photography is another important subset of her body of work: she has documented many homes, commercial buildings, and parks, as well as the architects and landscape architects who designed them.

After Randlett and her husband divorced in 1972, she moved to Virginia, where she assisted a friend with research on Northwest Coast Indians and worked on a commission for the National Register of Historic Places. She returned to the Northwest in 1975 and continued her nature and portrait photography. Randlett has also worked on commissions from various organizations, including the King County Arts Commission and the Northwest Living section of the Seattle Times, and has collaborated on many publications. Her photographs have illustrated books on Northwest artists, the Bloedel Reserve, Seattle's historic preservation movement, and public art in Seattle.

Mary Randlett's work has been included in more than 120 exhibitions, over twenty of which have been solo shows. Her photographs are found in the permanent collections of museums nationwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Seattle Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Northwest Art.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs used in the 1981 book The House next door: Seattle's neighborhood architectureby Lila Gault, with photographs by Mary Randlett.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)