Charles Clyde Ebbets:

50 Years in the Life of a Pioneer in Photography


 Charles Clyde Ebbets was born on August 18, 1905 in Gadsden, Alabama. He got his first camera, a Kodak Brownie, at age 8. The family was struggling in the 1920’s as was much of the country, so Charlie left school after 10th grade and moved to Montgomery, Alabama to begin working at a newspaper in the city. It was there he began to work toward the idea of making a living taking pictures. For the next several years, he honed his craft as he did photographic work traveling throughout the southeast. A born adventurer, during this time he also became an auto racer, wrestler, avid hunter, fisherman and pilot. His daring led to many early aerial photos, action and wildlife shots the likes of which had not been seen before. 


By the early 1930s, his reputation for eye-catching photographic excellence was spreading rapidly and in 1932 he was contracted to work on behalf as of the new Rockefeller Center as their photographic director covering the massive construction project. His assignment was to take photos that would gain widespread notoriety for the center and thus help lease it out during the economically tough post-depression times that surrounded its completion. That year he did just that, having captured multiple front-page and feature story images. The most notable of the images that he took of the project was the photo of the workmen having lunch on a beam 700 feet above the Manhattan skyline. It is an image representing ordinary men caught up in extraordinary circumstances that has become recognized worldwide as one of the most iconic representations of 20th century American photography.


In 1935, Charlie settled in south Florida and became one of the first official Associated Press photographers for the rapidly growing region. It was also the year of the devastating Category 5 Labor Day hurricane that destroyed much of the Florida Keys. Charlie was the first photographer on the scene and worked for 3 days straight to send out the first dramatic AP wire service photos across the nation. In 1938, he founded the Miami Press Photographer’s Association and was elected to serve as its first president. He also served as the primary photographer for the opening of Everglades National Park and won multiple awards for his wildlife photography and extensive work on the Seminole Indian tribe. As both an early Everglades explorer and close friend to many of the tribal elders, Charlie was privileged to document a rare time in the history of this region and its people. The photos in this vast collection of works remain unsurpassed in their beauty and significance to the history of both the Seminole native Americans and of this remarkable era of growth in the south.


During WW II, Ebbets served as the Photographic Director for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institutes operations in Florida and South America. He documented all phases of their military operations from ground-breakings, to training, to visiting dignitaries, to confidential aerial photography of bases and terrain. After the war ended, in 1945 he and a local publicist Ben Jacobs founded the City of Miami News Bureau and from 1945-1962, during his career with the city as Chief Photographer of the Miami Publicity Department, the bureau became known as the Miami Metropolitan News Bureau and expanded from a three-man operation to a full-time staff of twenty-four.


Charlie’s work on behalf of the city of Miami and his extensive wildlife photography publications garnered national recognition for himself and for South Florida’s tourist industry. During the three decades that followed, his photographs were featured in the Miami Daily News, The New York Times, National Geographic, Outdoors Unlimited, Field and Stream Magazine, U.S. Camera, Outdoor Life, Look Magazine, Popular Photography, Florida Outdoors and many others. His pictures were also used in travel brochures, tourism post cards, military records and training materials, trade magazines, product promotions and informational brochures for many organizations. He retired from the City of Miami in 1962 and continued to do freelance work in the private sector for many years until his death at age 72.  Much of his work can still be found today in print, old newspapers and books, and post cards in private collections across the country.

*All content, both images and written words are copyrighted material. © 2018, Ebbets Photo-Graphics, LLC. No unauthorized use, sharing, screen capture or reprint without the express written permission of Ebbets Photo-Graphics, LLC.

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