Palm Springs Art Museum
Palm Desert
Edwards Harris Center

Stephen H. Willard Photography Collection and Archive

Stephen Hallet Willard photographed the deserts and mountains of the West for 58 years. His mastery of the black and white photograph, combined with his passion for the landscape, translates into a body of work documenting remote areas of the West few Americans had seen or visited, yet he remains largely unknown.

Born in Illinois, Willard was raised in Corona, California. By the time Willard graduated from Corona High School in 1912, he had developed the skills needed for a career in photography. During the next few years, he made several important photographic trips through the wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada. In 1921, Willard married Beatrice Armstrong, and after a year of traveling and photographing the deserts of the Southwest, they settled permanently in Palm Springs and opened a studio and gallery. For the next twenty-five years he traveled throughout the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and developed a passion for photographing the desert.

To escape the summer heat, he and his wife established a second gallery in Mammoth Lakes and seasonally worked in both locations photographing the mountains in the summer and the desert in the winter. Willard regarded photography as a fine art and himself as an artist. His choice of subjects, composition, and use of sharp contrasts combine to make his photographs not only valuable artistic masterpieces but also a historic record of the desert and mountain environments.

In 1999, Dr. Beatrice Willard donated her father's life's work to the museum (then called the Palm Springs Desert Museum). This generous gift of over 16,000 items includes original glass and film negatives; vintage photographs; hand-colored lantern slides; photo-paintings; postcards; stereographs; cameras, lenses and other photographic equipment; and personal papers and memorabilia including maps, traveling cases, correspondence, and publications. A concentrated effort is underway to preserve the valuable materials in the Stephen H. Willard Photography Collection & Archive with the goal to ensure the continued enjoyment and utilization of these materials for the future.

Photography :: Stephen H. Willard Photography Collection and Archive
 
Stephen H. Willard Photography Collection & Archive

Stephen H. Willard Photography Collection & Archive
Palm Springs Art Museum

Stephen Hallet Willard photographed the deserts and mountains of the West for 58 years. His mastery of the black and white photograph, combined with his passion for the landscape, translates into a body of work documenting remote areas of the West few Americans had seen or visited, yet he remains largely unknown.