Issue #164  10/24/2009
Photo Conservator Jose Orraca Passes Away

Photography conservator Jose Orraca died September 14th. For 40 years he was a premier conservator of photography and the teacher of many others who are currently practicing around the world.

Initially Orraca was a paper conservator at the Library of Congress in the late 1960s when he decided to specialize in photography. He studied photo chemistry at RIT. He went on to survey and conserve the Stieglitz bequest collections at the request of Georgia O'Keeffe, after which he became the conservator at the George Eastman House. He went on to teach conservation at the Winterthur Museum, where he also served as chief conservator.

As New York photo dealer Alan Klotz noted in his post about Orraca's death: "He was a good friend of mine since 1971, and he will be sorely missed. He was a student of mine in the first history of photography class I ever taught. We became fast friends. Teaching was of paramount importance to Jose, and his students were the center of his life. He was generous with his time and attention to their training, and in turn they were devoted to him and stayed in touch for years after their 'graduation'. Jose was an old soul, giving and warm, and wise. He was spiritual, expansive, and passionate about everything he did, from photography to cooking. He was famous for his Hispanic elegance, and style, his quick smile, and easy laugh…in all, a hard man to replace."

New York photography dealer Howard Greenberg recalls, "I always thought of Jose as an unsung hero. While he was a world class conservator and taught so many of our known and established conservators their trade, his Latin style was, perhaps, politically incorrect, and he never seemed to receive the recognition he earned and deserved. I will carry very fond memories of driving down from Woodstock, parking illegally, and spending time with Jose over conservation, information, stories and lots of laughs. The inevitable parking ticket, although I could little afford it, always seemed worthwhile. Jose was a real good guy. I'll miss him and hope that, somehow, in our photo world, he will be remembered for his accomplishments and warmth."

Orraca is survived by his wife Sadako and his son Carlos.