Wildly popular and visually revolutionary, Life magazine shaped the way many Americans experienced, perceived, and collectively remembered important 20th-century events. This course, which accompanies “Life Magazine and the Power of Photography,” presents a deeper dive into the themes explored in the exhibition, taking you behind the scenes and offering a revealing look into many of Life’s now-iconic images and photo essays, and the people who made them.
From Getting the Picture to Life’s Impact
In this in-depth overview of the “Life Magazine and the Power of Photography,” learn about how Life shaped readers’ experiences of key historical events in the United States during the magazine’s golden age in the mid-20th century. Hear from curators as they reveal notable discoveries about the magazine and its contributors.
Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs
Katherine Bussard, Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography, Princeton University Art Museum
Gender Dynamics and Female Labor at Life
While Life was an old boys’ club, women played essential roles in the creation and success of the magazine. At the same time, female labor at Life—as well as the magazine’s coverage of women—reflected the struggles for opportunities and recognition that women faced in mid-20th-century America. Take a closer look at the work of female Life photographers, picture editors, and researchers, and examine how they navigated the male-dominated worlds of media and photography.
Alissa Schapiro, curator and a PhD candidate in art history, Northwestern University
Life: Motion Pictures, Moving Images
This session centers on Life and its vision of America through the world of entertainment. Over four decades, the magazine reacted to and shaped changing ideas about gender, race, and class. Learn how Life’s coverage of Hollywood stars, socialites, politicians, and activists helped solidify a sense of identity and shared national values.
Caitlin E. Ryan, scholar and PhD candidate in Art and Archeology, Princeton University
W. Eugene Smith and Life’s Photo Essay
Known for his empathetic, human touch, Life photographer W. Eugene Smith laid the basis of modern photojournalism. With a focus on the 1951 photo essay “Nurse Midwife”—among Life magazine’s most celebrated—this session explores Smith’s distinctive approach to crafting a compelling visual narrative within the social and cultural contexts that shaped it
Dalia Habib Linssen, director of Academic Engagement