Life Magazine and the Power of Photography is co-curated by Katherine A. Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell curator of photography at the Princeton University Art Museum; Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh senior curator of photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Alissa Schapiro, Ph.D. candidate in art history at Northwestern University. It will premiere in Princeton Feb. 22-June 21, 2020, before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Aug. 19-Dec. 13, 2020.
The organizers are the first museums to be granted complete access to the Life Picture Collection and among the first to delve deeply into the newly available Time Inc. Records Archive at the New-York Historical Society.
“The global reach, connective storytelling and visionary photo-essays of Life magazine substantially reshaped how Americans understood the role of photography in the 20th century,” notes James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director, “and we are delighted to bring this to life through this exhibition.”
From the period of the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, the vast majority of the photographs printed and viewed in the United States appeared on the pages of illustrated magazines, including the photography showcased in Life magazine. During its 36-year run as a weekly (1936-72), Life became one of the most widely read and influential magazines of all time. At the height of its circulation, the magazine boasted 8.5 million weekly subscribers, and consistently reached approximately 25 percent of Americans. In the words of Life’s founder, Henry R. Luce, Life proposed “to scour the world for the best pictures of every kind; to edit them with a feeling for visual form, for history and for drama; and to publish them on fine paper, every week, for a dime.”