HomeTime Off'Life' magazine and the Power Of Photography debuts at Princeton University Art...

‘Life’ magazine and the Power Of Photography debuts at Princeton University Art Museum

Princeton University’s Art Museum is displaying picture and paper archives from the famed “Life” magazine on Feb. 22.

This debut and presentation in Princeton located at the heart of the Princeton University’s campus will run from Feb. 22 until June 21.

The display, Life Magazine and the Power of Photography, features more than 150 objects, including an array of archival materials such as caption files, contact sheets and shooting scripts to provide new insights on the collaborative processes behind the magazine’s now-iconic images and photo essays.

According to museum officials, unlike previous projects that have celebrated the magazine’s imagery and photographers, this exhibition and its extensive publication attempts something entirely different: an exploration of how Life’s contributors and staff championed and influenced photography through sophisticated visual storytelling.

It premieres in Princeton before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Officials said Life Magazine and the Power of Photography is co-curated by Katherine Bussard and Peter 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. 

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.

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 founder Henry 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.”

The work of photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, Larry Burrows, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Charles Moore, Gordon Parks and W. Eugene Smith will be explored in the exhibition in the context of the magazine’s complex and highly collaborative creative and editorial processes.

In addition, the exhibition explores the ways in which “Life” promoted a predominately white, middle-class perspective on politics and culture that reinforced the geopolitical prominence of the United States, according to officials.

The accompanying 336-page catalogue, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, examines “Life’s” groundbreaking role in mid-20th century American culture and the history of photography by considering the complexity of the magazine’s image-making and publishing enterprise. The book includes essays and contributions by the curators and 22 additional scholars of art history, American studies, history and communication studies.

Officials said admission is free at the Princeton University Art Museum.

The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.; and Sunday 12 p.m.- 5 p.m.

The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays, according to officials.

For more information about the debut of ‘Life Magazine and the Power of Photography’, visit www.artmuseum.princeton.edu. 

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