Current Exhibits

Focus on Community: The Ricardo Alvarado Photography Archive at Stanford

Exhibition to show May 26, 2023 — July 30, 2023, in Cecil H. Green Library 

Stanford Libraries presents Focus on Community: The Ricardo Alvarado Photography Archive at Stanford in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda, Cecil H. Green Library, Bing Wing.   

Four Women on a Chevy, Location Unknown, CA:  c. 1950; Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado Archive B06_F06_S06_02. Copyright Janet Alvarado.

Image: Four Women on a Chevy, Location unknown, California: c. 1950; Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado Archive M2749 B06_F06_S06_02. Copyright Janet Alvarado.

When Janet Alvarado found her father’s photographic equipment and a trove of 4x5 film negatives following his passing in 1976, she made a singular discovery: rare images of the Filipino American world of her father’s young adulthood and of several thriving multicultural communities in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1940s and 1950s. Focus on Community: The Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado Archive at Stanford celebrates this rich archive by highlighting both Ricardo Alvarado’s unique images and Janet Alvarado’s loving stewardship of her father’s work.

Born in 1914 in Urdaneta, a town located in the northern Philippines province of Pangasinan, Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado emigrated to the United States in 1928, joining his older brother Cirilo in California. Alvarado was a member of a pioneering generation of Filipino immigrants to the United States – often called the “Manong Generation.” In Ilocano – Alvarado’s first language and one of many languages spoken in the Philippines – “manong” refers to a respected older brother, becoming a term applied to young, unmarried Filipino men who entered the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. Alvarado worked a variety of jobs in San Francisco and the Bay area, and proudly served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II. In the postwar period, he returned to San Francisco and followed a career as a cook at Letterman Army Hospital in the Presidio. He married his wife Norberta in 1959 and soon started a family, with daughter Janet and son Joseph.

As a young man in the 1940s and 1950s, Ricardo Alvarado was an avid photographer and seldom seen without a camera; whether his professional Graflex Speed Graphic 4x5 or his smaller Graflex 22 Model 200. He photographed his family, friends, coworkers, and the places he lived and worked—in San Francisco’s Western Addition and Fillmore District, Bayview Hunters Point, the Presidio of San Francisco, as well as the greater Bay Area, including rural farm communities. Following his marriage in 1959, Ricardo’s pursuit of photography largely gave way to family responsibilities and his rich negatives remained unexplored until after his passing.

Alvarado’s images of the neighborhoods in the greater Bay Area that were predominantly inhabited by Filipino American, African American, and Mexican American individuals during the mid-century are unique, revelatory depictions of the social and working lives of these intersected communities. Through Alvarado’s masterful eye and lens, the archive – with its emphasis on themes of migration, work, and community – contributes a seminal visual component to San Francisco, California, and American history; it centers communities that have been peripheral to, or even excluded from, extant visual histories.

Focus on Community includes images created from high-resolution scans of Alvarado’s original negatives alongside a rich selection of printed ephemera from the archive, as well as Ricardo Alvarado’s cameras and photographic equipment, generously loaned by Janet Alvarado.

The Stanford Libraries are honored to hold Ricardo Ocreto Alvarado’s archive. The materials on display are cataloged in SearchWorks, Stanford Libraries online catalog, and can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room after the exhibition concludes. A companion digital exhibit and printed catalog are forthcoming later this year.

The Department of Special Collections is proud to partner with Janet Alvarado to ensure the continued legacy of these vital images.

The exhibit was curated by Benjamin Lee Stone, Curator for American and British History and Associate Director of Special Collections; Anna Lee, Curator for Photography, Department of Special Collections; produced and designed by Deardra Fuzzell, Exhibits Manager, and assisted by Elizabeth Fischbach, retired Exhibits Manager and Pasha Tope, Graphic Designer.

We wish to acknowledge the many people who contributed their time and energy to make these projects possible. Special thanks to Janet Alvarado for her stewardship of this important photography archive and contributions to the exhibition and catalog, and all the staff at Stanford who made it possible for the archive to find a home at the Stanford Libraries. Thanks as well as to Angelo Ancheta and Celina Gonzalez for their written contributions, and to Estella Habal and Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin.  We also wish to acknowledge the following people for their support: Michael Keller, Phil Schreur, Robert Trujillo, Tim Noakes, Leif Anderson, Glynn Edwards, Gurudarshan Khalsa, Laura Wilsey, Dinah Handel, Christopher Hacker, Michelle Mobley, Abigail Watson, Justin Xi, Kylee Jo Diedrich, Jerry Alabastro, Ramoncito Cuenco,  Roberto Guerra, and Michael Reyes.

NOTE: Exhibit cases in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda are illuminated from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. M-F, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sat, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sun. Visitors are encouraged to call 650-723-0931 or visit the Library Hours page to confirm hours and access.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. Learn about the Libraries' entry requirements and available services.


Incomparable: The Stanford Band

Bender Room, Fifth Floor, Bing Wing, Green Library

An exhibit celebrating the Incomparable Stanford Band. (Please note the updated location; this exhibit is now on display in the Bender Room of Green Library).

More information.