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Esther Bubley (1921-1998)

Introduction | Early Life | Wartime Work | Postwar | Personal Life | Achievements | Resources

Introduction


Esther Bubley
Esther Bubley. 1944.
Gift of Esther Bubley estate. By permission of University of Louisville.
LC-USZ62-121073

"Your pictures are wonderful," Life picture editor Ray Mackland told an unassuming Esther Bubley when she first showed him her work, "but you just don't have a Life personality."Life magazine staff had the reputation of being "tall, square-jawed, racket-toting Ivy Leaguers" who were aligned with the power-elite.

Macklin had accurately assessed Bubley's reticent personality but two years later, in 1951, when Bubley won a prize in a Life-sponsored photo competition, the magazine was compelled to pay her serious attention.

During the next fifteen years, she produced a strong body of photo-essays for Life and Ladies' Home Journal, showing an uncanny talent for capturing the intimate moments and spontaneous gestures that characterize the best of American photojournalism.

Bubley blazed trails for photographers and women photographers in particular with her ability to interpret an assignment, make it her own, and deliver a product often better than anyone envisioned.

A Greyhound bus trip from Louisville, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee
A Greyhound bus trip from Louisville, Kentucky, to Memphis, Tennessee... 1943 Sept.
LC-USW3-038027-E

Early in her career, Bubley became a protégé of Roy Stryker, working for him at the Office of War Information (OWI) and at Standard Oil (New Jersey) (SONJ). She demonstrated her skill in documenting people in all walks of life even in her earliest assignments. Although she photographed many celebrities, including scientist Albert Einstein, poet Marianne Moore, and jazz musician Charlie Parker, Bubley specialized in photographing ordinary people in the course of everyday lives. "Put me down with people, and it's just overwhelming," she once noted.

The Library of Congress holds a significant body of Bubley's work, ca. 1941-1953, including her work for the OWI and selections from her work for SONJ and from her Moroccan photographs (see Resources section for more information).



Prepared by: Beverly Brannan, Curator of Photography. Last updated: Feb. 12, 2004.


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  October 22, 2010
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