"LIKE MOST GREAT PHOTOJOURNALISTS, SHE FOUND HER ART IN EVERYDAY LIFE..."
American (1921 - 1998)
Esther Bubley (1921-1998) was a preeminent freelance photographer during the "golden age" of American photojournalism, from 1945 to 1965. At a time when most post-war American women were anchored by home and family, Bubley was a thriving professional, traveling throughout the world, photographing stories for magazines such as LIFE and the Ladies' Home Journal and for prestigious corporate clients that included Pepsi-Cola and Pan American World Airways.
"Put me down with people, and it's just overwhelming," Bubley exclaimed in an interview. Like most great photojournalists, she found her art in everyday life, and she successfully balanced her artistic ambitions with the demands of commercial publishing. Edward Steichen, curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art and the era's arbiter of taste, was a great supporter of Bubley, whose work embodied his aesthetic ideal that photography "explain man to man and each to himself." She was shown in several group shows at the Museum of Modern Art and was given a one-person show at the Limelight, Helen Gee's legendary coffee house and the only gallery specializing in photography in New York during the 1950s. Bubley worked primarily for the printed page, however, and like her colleagues, can be only partially understood in the context of today's gallery-oriented photography world, in which photographs are shown as isolated works of art.
Bubley was a superb industrial photographer, capable of creating striking modernist patterns in black and white and color under technically challenging conditions. She was also a "people photographer" with an uncanny ability to achieve intimacy with her subjects and to construct subtle and complex narratives through sequences of photographs.
Bubley's photographs are of cultural as well as artistic interest. Her photo-essays explore the era's American stereotypes -- the troubled child, the high school drop-out, the harried housewife, the enterprising farm family -- that were elaborated in the pages of the magazines for which she worked. Her corporate assignments document the introduction of American companies into traditional cultures abroad. Bubley developed a specialty in stories about health care and mental health, documenting the era's faith in new technologies and the growing prestige of psychology and psychiatry. She also covered her share of celebrities and popular culture topics, including children's television and beauty contests. A cross-section of Bubley's work provides a revealing glimpse into the post-war decades, seen not only through Bubley's lens but through the pages of the illustrated magazines that dominated the mass media of the time. Fonte
All images © Esther Bubley