“Life Magazine” Exhibit Coming to PU Art Museum
SCENES FROM “LIFE”: J. R. Eyerman’s 1952 photo of an audience wearing 3-D glasses while watching a movie is part of “Life Magazine and the Power of Photography,” debuting at the Princeton University Art Museum on February 22. The exhibition, co-organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, features about 150 objects and takes an in-depth look at the photographs that made Life magazine so revolutionary for its time.
From its first issue in 1936, with an image by trailblazing photographer Margaret Bourke-White on its cover, to the suspension of weekly publication in 1972, Life magazine employed photographs to tell stories of worldwide events. In the process, it visualized a distinctly mid-20th-century American worldview and fundamentally shaped modern ideas about photography.
Co-organized by the Princeton University Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, “Life Magazine and the Power of Photography” is the first museum exhibition to take an in-depth look at the photographs that made Life so revolutionary, by exploring how its photographs were assigned, captured, selected, cropped, sequenced, manipulated and prioritized. It will debut in Princeton on February 22 before opening at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on August 19.
The exhibition will feature approximately 150 objects, including contact sheets, photographer’s assignment notes, internal memos, and layout experiments, as well as original press prints and issues of Life. 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. Archive at the New York Historical Society.
“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, and Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh senior curator of photographs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“This sweeping examination of 20th-century visual culture portrayed by Life magazine provides exceptional insight into the magazine’s impact and its collaborative approach to storytelling while shedding light on our current practices of both visual narration and image consumption,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director.
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 — will be explored in the context of the creative and editorial decision-making structures at Life.
Lenders to the exhibition will include the Life Picture Collection, the Time Inc. Archive at the New-York Historical Society, major museums, artists’ estates, both organizing institutions, and numerous private collections.
A richly illustrated 336-page publication, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition, with essays and contributions from 25 scholars of art history, American studies, history, and communication studies.
The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.