Dolores Allen Littles '59
Class of 1959
When Dolores Allen Littles began working at Lifemagazine more than a half century ago, she also began her studies at City College, going to school at night.
The young woman from Hempstead, N.Y., had a dream, formed when she was 12 years old: she wanted to work at Life. Mission accomplished? Not quite.
Knowing that she needed a college degree to advance out of the magazine’s typing pool — where she’d been working part-time since 1954 — she enrolled at CCNY and when she graduated, she had earned a Bachelor of Science in Education. By then, she had begun meeting and working alongside many of the photographers whose work appeared in Life and who would help shape her career.
One was the acclaimed photographer Gordon Parks. At his request, she helped organize some of his pictures, impressing him with her skill at selecting just the right ones. It gave her a sense that there was, indeed, more to come for her than the typing pool. In 1960, shortly after she graduated, she was transferred within the company to the newly formed Time-Life Booksdivision, and in the next seven years, she handled photo traffic on some 175 books.
In 1967, she was promoted to chief of the Time-Life Bookspicture department, supervising a staff of 10 who were responsible for keeping track of thousands of rolls of film submitted by their photographers and, it was once estimated, more than 85,000 transparencies that she and her staff had to select from for the books Time-Lifewas producing.
There were few women in such positions of responsibility in journalism at that time; even fewer were African-American.
Little’s skills became apparent to many of the photographers with whom she worked. One of them, Jay Maisel, had some advice when he sought her help in mounting a show. “You have an eye,” he said. “I think it’s just innate. Don’t mess it up by going behind a camera.”
From chief, she was promoted to deputy photo editor of Time-Life Books and then, in 1981, to photo editor, having served in that role temporarily for nine months the year before.
Littles left Time-Life Books in 1982 after a 28-year career. When she did, her long-time colleague and supervisor Bob Mason had this to say about her: “She is personally acquainted with hundreds of leading photographers around the world [and] exercises extremely good judgment in evaluating [their work]. And she is a formidable and skilled negotiator.”
Over the following years, she managed a boutique advertising agency in New York City, worked as a photographers’ agent, mounted photography shows, sold photography from Eastman Kodak’s vast library for advertising use, and was a U.S.-based freelance photo editor for Paris Match, the French newsweekly, during the first Gulf War.