A presentation, event and conference at the Bradley Center.

Tom and Ethel Bradley Center


Putting History on Display

Preserving a photographic look into the diverse communities of Southern California.

Give to the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center

John Kouns photo of two women of color consoling each other at a march.

A picture is worth a thousand words. We’ve all heard the phrase and experienced an emotion when looking at a picture. Whether it’s nostalgia for the past, hope for the future, sadness or happiness, a picture has the power to transport you to a different time. For 35 years, the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center has been evoking emotions and putting history on display through its more than one million images and oral histories that document the social, cultural and political lives of the diverse communities of Southern California from 1910 to the present. These negatives, slides and prints are primarily produced by African-American photojournalists, covering the rich tapestry of the Black community (and other communities of color) in Los Angeles and beyond.

The mission of CSUN’s Tom & Ethel Bradley Center, housed in the University Library is to collect, preserve and disseminate the visual history of Southern California, with an emphasis on ethnic minority communities and photographers. The Center has also a Border Studies collection that explores the impact of globalization on the displacement and movement of populations from Mexico and Central America to the United States. Oral histories, manuscripts and other ephemeral materials support the photograph collection.

The Tom & Ethel Bradley Center has become an important repository for visual images in our region and has been used for museum and gallery exhibitions, scholarly work, TV documentaries, and teaching materials. The Center’s images have been featured in 30 museum and gallery exhibitions since 2012, reaching wide and diverse audiences in California and other parts of the country and the world.

The center was established in 1981 by Kent Kirkton as the Center for Photojournalism and Visual History. It was renamed in 2008 the Institute for Arts & Media, as its mission and participation broadened. After entering into a partnership with the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation in 2013, it was renamed again as the Tom & Ethel Bradley Center. Dr. José Luis Benavides, who had been co-director of the Center since 2013, became its new director in the fall of 2016. The center holds about 1 million images. Many of the images were produced by African-American freelance and independent photographers in the African-American communities in and near Los Angeles.

Other noteworthy collections held by the center include images by “concerned” photographer John Kouns, who spent years documenting two of the most important social movements of the 1960s and 1970s in America — the civil rights struggle in the South and the workers’ and civil rights struggle of the United Farm Workers in California; Emmon Clarke, a volunteer photographer for César Chávez and the United Farm Workers during the formative years of the union; the late freelance photographer Richard Cross, who documented the Colombian descendants of the first free-slave community in the Americas, Palenque de San Basilio, as well as the wars in El Salvador and Honduras for Newsweek, the Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times, and U.S. News & World Report; and the Mexican photojournalist Julián Cardona, who documented the violence in Ciudad Juárez as well as the largest migration of Mexicans in the early 2000s, partnering with journalist Charles Bowden to produce three essential books on Mexico: Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future, Murder City, and Exodus/Éxodo.