Art & Architecture

Life Magazine and the Power of Photography

    Contributions by
  • Jeremy Adelman
  • Rachael Z. DeLue
  • Nadya Bair
  • Katherine A. Bussard
  • Sharon Corwin
  • Erika Doss
  • Dolores Flamiano
  • Michel Frizot
  • Thierry Gervais
  • Kristen Gresh
  • Ellen Handy
  • Robert Hariman
  • Jason E. Hill
  • Liam Kennedy
  • James Leighton
  • Dalia Habib Linssen
  • John Louis Lucaites
  • Amanda Maddox
  • Mary Panzer
  • Paul Roth
  • Caitlin E. Ryan
  • Alissa Schapiro
  • Sally Stein
  • Catherine Zuromskis

The first comprehensive consideration of Life magazine’s groundbreaking and influential contribution to the history of photography


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Apr 28, 2020
8.75 x 12.5 in.
250 color + b/w illus.
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From the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, the vast majority of the photographs printed and consumed in the United States appeared on the pages of illustrated magazines. Offering an in-depth look at the photography featured in Life magazine throughout its weekly run from 1936 to 1972, this volume examines how the magazine’s use of images fundamentally shaped the modern idea of photography in the United States. The work of photographers both celebrated and overlooked—including Margaret Bourke-White, Larry Burrows, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Frank Dandridge, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Fritz Goro, Gordon Parks, and W. Eugene Smith—is explored in the context of the creative and editorial structures at Life. Contributions from 25 scholars in a range of fields, from art history to American studies, provide insights into how the photographs published in Life—used to promote a predominately white, middle-class perspective—came to play a role in cultural dialogues in the United States around war, race, technology, art, and national identity.

Drawing on unprecedented access to Life magazine’s picture and paper archives, as well as photographers’ archives, this generously illustrated volume presents previously unpublished materials, such as caption files, contact sheets, and shooting scripts, that shed new light on the collaborative process behind many now-iconic images and photo-essays.

Awards and Recognition

  • Winner of the Alfred H. Barr Award Jr. Award, College Art Association
  • Winner of The Photography Network Book Prize