Addison Scurlock (1883-1964) was the photographer of black Washington. His portraits – in particular those of the black elite – frame our understanding and memories of their lives in the first half of the 20th century.
Scurlock was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He moved with his parents to Washington in 1900. That same year, he pursued photography, primarily portrait photography, as an apprentice in a studio on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. After four years, he opened his own studio in his parents' home on Florida Avenue, NW. In 1911 he moved his studio to 900 U Street, NW, one door west of the corner of Ninth and U streets, NW. Planned Metro construction forced the studio from the building in 1976, and it was razed in 1977. (The current 900 U Street was built in 1999.)
The Scurlock Studio photographed most local and national leaders of the day, as well as weddings, school groups, social clubs, and businesses. It made portraits for Washingtonians of all social classes. It also served as the official photographer for Howard University and the local junior high and high schools. Scurlock's sons also took photographs for newspapers and produced newsreels in the 1940s. The Scurlock Studio was a family business. Scurlock's wife Mamie served as the business manager. Sons Robert and George joined the business as photographers in the 1930s. In 1948 the sons opened the Capital School of Photography, where dozens of professional photographers and photojournalists received training. In 1952 Robert Scurlock branched out by opening Custom Craft Studios, specializing in color photography, at 1813 18th Street, NW.
After Robert Scurlock's death in 1994, the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, purchased the collection spanning nearly a century of Washington history.
The Addison Scurlock Residence Site, 1202 T Street, NW, is a separate entry in this database.