Helen Balfour’s works are wide-ranging, including early experiments with home movies; insightful pictures of local dignitaries, families, and children; masterful portraits of famous Americans; a stunning series depicting African Americans in rural Kentucky; and hundreds of photos and films documenting the work of her artistic partner, modern dancer Sybil Shearer.
Though a number of Helen’s portraits of Great Americans found their way into museum collections, most of her photographs remained in her home, where a sampling was often shown to visitors. After Helen’s death, Sybil continued to show them, along with serving tea, almost as a rite of passage for newcomers.
After Sybil’s death, all of the photographs and films became the property of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, with the Trustees responsible for their preservation, archiving, exhibition, and future disposition. In 2018 most of the photographs were gifted to Chicago’s Newberry Library, and the films were gifted to the Chicago Film Archives.