From Paris to The University of Southern Mississippi de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, the timeless work of the legendary photographer Tana Hoban is on full display in the Museum of Art until August 25.
Hoban was a world-renowned artist, photographer, filmmaker and publisher of more than two dozen award-winning children’s books. After her death in 2006, her only child, Miela Gallob Ford, donated materials related to the 27 books she published between 1972 and 1991 to the Southern Miss de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection.
The Museum of Art showcase contains materials related to Hoban’s children’s literature, biographical materials, correspondence, promotional items and a 1973 educational filmstrip series. An opening reception will take place at 5 p.m. on June 16 in the museum. Miela Gallob Ford will serve as the special guest. The exhibit and reception are both free and open to the public.
“She (Miela Gallob Ford) knows everything her mother did,” said Ellen Ruffin, curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. “She and her mother wrote two or three books together for children. She will speak on Tana Hoban and her work.”
The Philadelphia born artist graduated from Philadelphia’s School of Design for Women, which is now Moore College of Art and Design. After receiving a fellowship to study painting in the Netherlands and England in 1938, Hoban began her career as a photographer in the 1940s with work appearing in “Life,” “Look,” “McCall,” “Seventeen,” “Newsweek” and “Harpers Bazaar.” She also worked as an advertising photographer for popular names such as Kodak, Carter’s and Campbell’s Soup.
“It wasn’t until after I received the collection from Miela and saw the 58,000 slides that I realized Tana Hoban’s amount of productivity,” Ruffin said.
The creative community praised Hoban as a distinguished and valued artist. In 1953, she was the only woman mentioned in a “Time” magazine portfolio of “Half a Century of U.S. Photography.” In 1959, the Professional Photographers of America named her one of the Top Ten Women Photographers.
While she began photography in the 1940s, her first children’s book “Shapes and Things” was not published until the 1970s. Inspired by scenes from everyday life, Hoban carried a camera with her at all times in search of ideas for her books.
Hoban’s books helped children learn by introducing concepts such as counting, geometry, animals, machines, colors and textures. Her innovative style taught children ages 5 and under to explore the world through photographs of beautiful objects from everyday life.
"A neat row of garbage cans sitting in the bright sun inspired me to do the counting book, 'Count and See,' " Hoban wrote in an autobiographical essay in 1979.
Some of her books encouraged readers to turn the page by featuring cutout pages that exposed a portion of the photograph before turning the page for the full image. This approach was revolutionary and refreshing, yet simple because her books usually contained little to no text.
"All but half of a dozen of my books come from such perceptions of daily surroundings, organized so as to give the child a sense of verbal relationships, or concepts," she explained.
The majority of Hoban’s published work for children is held in the distinguished de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. Hoban started donating her work to the Southern Miss in 1982 before moving to Paris with her husband. Currently, more than 100 items including vintage prints, negatives, slides, films, files, posters, postcards, writings and other Hoban memorabilia are held here.
For more information on the Tana Hoban exhibit, contact the Museum of Art at 601.266.5200. For more information on the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection of Hoban’s work, please visit http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/html/aboutus-welcome.shtml.
Tana Hoban’s work will be on display in The University of Southern Mississippi Museum of Art through August 25.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.