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Swetnam, James W. (March 17, 1926-April 18, 2009)



  • Existence: March 17, 1926 - April 18, 2009


From a biographical sketch accompanying a portrait of Swetnam:

Jim Swetnam’s Photography career started in his hometown, Moberly, Missouri when as a small boy he won a camera in a Captain Midnight radio contest. He spent summers working in the lab of a portrait studio and became a high school yearbook photographer. Upon graduating from Moberly High School he enlisted in the navy. After attending the navy’s photography school in Pensacola, Florida, photographer’s mate Swetnam did tours of duty at San Diego, Port Hueneme, California and Philadelphia. When his naval career ended he attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and graduated with a degree in Photojournalism. While in school he was the grand prize winner of Kappa Alpha Mu’s National Intercollegiate Photo Contest. A Fringe benefit of that experience was some words of praise and encouragement from contest Judge Edward Steichen, Dean of American Photographers. Swetnam spent about a year working for a newspaper in Manhattan, Kansas where he was a Reporter-Photographer and Sports Editor. Then about 1952, he left Manhattan and came to Kansas City with the intention of getting into advertising. He took a “temporary” job as a photographer and to this day hasn’t made it into advertising. He spent six years with Randazzo and Morrison, the top commercial photo studio of that era. In 1958 Swetnam and as associate left the studio and went into business for themselves. They were an instant success and remained successful until they parted company 14 years later. Swetnam then formed his own company remaining at the old location at 108 W. 19th Street. Tennis is Swetnam’s main hobby. He’s a longtime member of the Rockhill Tennis Club and has served as line judge and net judge at World Class Tennis Tournaments in the area. Also he’s a wine enthusiast and when he’s in San Francisco he loves to make pilgrimages to the Napa and Sonoma valleys to sample products of the vine at the wineries. Currently Swetnam is excited about the trend that’s developed in the last few years toward using photographs for wall decorations. The pictorial work he had been doing for pleasure is now starting to bring in a profit. Although Swetnam has won more than a hundred ribbons, certificates, plaques and medals for his work, there’s little evidence of them in his studio. “I keep them out of sight on purpose”, he said. “I don’t want to be tempted to spend any time indulging in past glories. It’s what I’m doing right now that’s important. You really are no better than your last picture”.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Jim Swetnam Collection

Identifier: MS-0318
Scope and Contents

The Jim Swetnam collection was received by LaBudde Special Collections in March of 2017. The collection contains notebooks and notecards with photograph descriptions, film negatives and photos from Swetnam’s career as a commercial photographer, correspondence, and official Professional Photographers of America paperwork.

Dates: Majority of material found in 1962 - 1984