Synopses & Reviews
This monograph is dedicated to the career of Esther Bubley, one of America’s leading photojournalists. Bubley’s mentor was Roy Stryker, for whom she worked at the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C., and at Standard Oil in New York City. Under Stryker, Bubley learned to document the spectacle of modern industry and the lives of ordinary people in a fast-changing world. From the early 1940s to the late 60s, she also freelanced for national magazines, producing forty photo-essays for Life, a dozen more for the Ladies’ Home Journal’s famous series, “How America Lives,” and numerous projects for non-profit organizations and major corporations alike. At a time when career options for women were limited, Bubley rose to the top of an overwhelmingly male-dominated field.
The 5,000-word essay by photo historian Bonnie Yochelson explains the working life of a photojournalist during the pre-television era when picture magazines dominated the national media. In collaboration with Yochelson, Tracy Schmid, Archivist of the Bubley estate, and Jean Bubley, Executor of the estate, contribute original research and interviews with Esther’s colleagues and contemporaries, highlighting her achievements and accomplishments. The book includes seventy-five of her finest images as well as magazine layouts, which illustrate how Bubley’s photographs were originally seen by millions of Americans. While Bubley’s talent was well recognized at the time–her work was shown in three Museum of Modern Art exhibitions–she was not a celebrity and did little to promote herself. Having received far less attention than she deserves, this book aims to introduce a selection of her best work to a wider audience.
"In the mid-19th century, Esther Bubley's remarkable photo essays graced the pages of Life and Ladies Home Journal and enriched photographic record projects sponsored by corporations like Standard Oil. Images from her most important assignments are beautifully reproduced in this book, from her earliest work contributing to the files of the Office of War Information in the mid-1940s to a final, unpublished personal endeavor revolving around her pet Dalmatian. Pages of text interspersed throughout tell the story of Bubley's life and help contextualize the pictures. Also included are brief excerpts and illustrations of some of the magazine articles featuring her work, as well as contact sheets and images that weren't used in the final products. Old-fashioned hard work and a knack for making her subjects forget she was around were key to Bubley's success, and she was in demand by a wide variety of clients who sent her all over the world. One after another, her pictures arrest the viewer's eye: the newlywed couple having dinner by lamplight in a sparely furnished Texas farmhouse; the rebellious teenage girl fighting with her parents; the angelic children's choir singing their hearts out in Brooklyn. This elegant tribute, the first in Aperture's new series focusing on 'great unknowns,' leaves one with few doubts that Bubley could hold her own as a photographer even at a time when it was largely a man's profession." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
is a photographic historian and freelance curator. In 2001, she co-curated “Esther Bubley: American Photo-Journalist,” at the UBS/PaineWebber Art Gallery in collaboration with the Bubley archive and estate. She is the author of Berenice Abbott: Changing New York, The Complete WPA Project
(1997), and is co-author of Rediscovering Jacob Riis