Harry W. Randall (1915-2012)

January 4, 2013

Harry Randall in 2003. Photo Juan Salas.

Harry W. Randall, Jr., once the chief photographer of the special photographic unit of the Fifteenth Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, died at a care facility in Snowflake, Arizona on November 11. His vast collection of photographs—which included not only his own camera work but a large array of negatives, albums of prints, and logs that recorded the photographs of the entire unit—today form the core of the ALBA photographic archives held at the Tamiment Library at New York University. Much of his work in Spain can be found online at the Tamiment website.

Working with other photographers, Benjamin Katine and Anthony B. Drossel, as well as lab technician William H. Oderaka, Harry led the team in documenting the activities of various battalions and brigades, both in battle conditions and behind the lines. Many of his photographs appeared in the Brigade newspaper, Volunteer for Liberty, and in other publications aimed at gaining international support for the Spanish Republic.

Each photographer in the unit processed his own negatives, identified the prints, and kept records of their content. The vagaries of the war resulted in the loss of many images. But Harry personally brought the surviving archive back to the United States and, years later, personally saw that they found their way into the permanent ALBA collection.

Harry was born in Spokane, Washington December 20, 1915 and was raised in Portland, Oregon. He attended Reed College, where he developed a political awareness that led him to support various labor strikes on the West Coast, including a major maritime strike in 1934 and another in the lumber industry the following year. At Reed, he also found an interest in photography and film in which he built a professional career.

He sailed for Spain in 1937 and trained with the MacKenzie-Papineau battalion before being chosen to head the photographic unit.

After the war, Harry settled in Canada, working with the National Film Board in making documentary science films. He enlisted in the Canadian army in 1944 and served with a group making newsreels in England. He eventually returned to New York in 1952 and devoted the remainder of his career to making medical films, many for the American Cancer Society.

His wife Doreen died earlier this year.

Much of Harry Randall’s work appeared in ALBA’s photographic show, The Aura of the Cause, curated by Cary R. Nelson and in a later exhibition La Brigada Lincoln en Aragón—1937-1938, curated by Juan Salas.


2 Responses to “ Harry W. Randall (1915-2012) ”

  1. Dan Bessie on October 12, 2013 at 7:16 am

    A few years back my wife Jeanne and I were invited to attend an event in Spain honoring the leaving of the International Brigades. We appeared an an exhibition in Montblanc, near Barcelona, which Harry and Doreen also attended. I was asked to speak, and read a bit from my father’s diaries of the war, published as Alvah Bessie’s Spanish Civil War Notebooks. When I opened to a page with a photo of my father, Harry rose from the audience and announced, “And I took that picture!” You can’t imagine my delight. We went to dinner that night with harry and Doreen and others, and remember them both with great fondness; a most lovely and wonderfully delightful couple. It’s especially heartening to know that Harry contributed so much to an understanding of the history of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. His legacy is secure. Dan Bessie

  2. Richard May on October 6, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for this wonderful account of Uncle Harry
    All of us in England ) Doreen’s family have fond memories of Harry but were unaware of his passing so soon after Aunty Doreen
    I have just found these accounts of his life
    Once again thanks