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Origins and Education


Born Boston, MA, October 9, 1932


Father, Roger Stanley Plowden, 1902–1960


Mother, Mary Russell Butler, 1902–2001


Lived in New York City and Putney, VT, 1938-1962


Married Pleasance Coggeshall June 20, 1962;   divorced 1976


John Stanley Plowden born June 22, 1965


Daniel Coggeshall Plowden born March 2, 1967


Lived in Sea Cliff, Long Island, 1969–1976


Married Sandra Oakes Schoellkopf July 8, 1977


Moved to Winnetka, IL, 1978


Philip Schoellkopf Plowden born August 30, 1979


Karen Calkins Plowden born January 12, 1982



The Putney School, Putney, VT, Class of 1951


Yale University, New Haven, CT, BA Economics, 1955


Private Study with Minor White and Nathan Lyons, Rochester, NY, 1959–1960


Selected Awards

Honored Image Maker Award

for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in photography presented by the Society of Photographic Education

Midwest Region, 2002


The Railroad History Award for “Significant Contribution to the Photographic Interpretation of

North America’s Railroading History,” 1989


The Wilson Hicks Award for “Outstanding Contributions to

Still Photography,” 1977


The Benjamin Barondess Award for Lincoln and His America, 1971


“I have been beset, with a sense of urgency to record those parts of our heritage which seem to be receding as quickly as the view from the rear of a speeding train. I fear that we are eradicating the evidence of our past accomplishments so quickly that in time we may well lose the sense of who we are.”

—David Plowden (from the Beinecke Library website)


​David Plowden’s photographs are represented in the permanent collections of numerous institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Beinecke Library at Yale University, the Center for Creative Photography, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution.


He has received numerous fellowships, grants and awards including a National Endowment for the Humanities, Smithsonian Institution Research Grant, and Guggenheim Fellowship.

Academic and Professional Appointments


Great Northern Railway, Willmar, MN, 1955–1956


American Express Company, New York, NY, 1957–1958


Assistant to O. Winston Link, New York, NY, 1958–1959


Assistant to George Meluso, New York, NY, 1960–1962


Self-employed photographer and writer, 1962–present


Academic Positions

Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design, Chicago, IL    

- Visiting Associate Professor, 1978–1980    

- Associate Professor, 1980–1985 (awarded tenure 1982)


University of Iowa, School of Journalism, Iowa City, IA     

- Lecturer, 1985–1988


University of Baltimore, Institute for Publications Design, Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts, Baltimore, MD     

- Artist-in-Residence and Senior Fellow, 1990–1991


Grand Valley State University, Communications Arts and Humanities Division, Allendale, MI

-Visiting Professor, 1988–1990, 1991–2007


Selected Fellowships, Grants and Commissions​​​​​​​​​​​

Humanities Iowa, 2012

Iowa Humanities Board and National Endowment for   the Humanities, 1987–1988

State Historical Society of Iowa, 1987–1988

Baird Foundation, 1987

Seymour H. Knox Foundation, 1987

Chicago Historical Society, 1980–1984

The New York Botanical Gardens and Society, 1978

H. E. Butt Foundation, 1977

Department of Transportation and the Smithsonian Institution, 1975–1976

Smithsonian Institution Research Grant, 1970–1971

John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, 1968

New York State Council on the Arts, 1965, 1967

The Committee of Advisors to the Federal Highway Administrator, 1966–1967

The Commission on Architecture and Urban Design, Binghamton, NY, 1966

Columbia University, New York, NY, 1962–1966


Selected photographs in Permanent Collections​

Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery, UMBC, Baltimore, MD

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, New Haven, CT

The Brinton Museum, Big Horn, WY

Buffalo AKG Museum, Buffalo, NY

Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Buffalo, NY

Burchfield Art Center, Buffalo, NY

California Museum of Photography, Riverside, CA

Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL

Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA
George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, NY

Humanities Iowa, Iowa City, IA

International Center of Photography, New York, NY
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

State Historical Museum of Iowa, Des Moines, IA

University of Virginia Art Museum, Charlottesville, VA

Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS

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