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Esther Bubley (1921-1998)

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Personal Life

Edwin Locke
Edwin Locke. [between 1935 and 1942]

Bubley's colleagues knew her as an extremely private person. Sol Libsohn, her colleague at SONJ and a lifelong friend, remembered her speaking at length on issues that concerned her but having no time for social chitchat. Another SONJ colleague, Charlotte Brooks, recalled Roy Stryker's observation that Bubley reminded him of a brick wall, the only opening being just large enough for her camera to poke through.

After a brief, unhappy marriage to Edwin Locke, Stryker's brilliant but self-destructive administrative chief, Bubley avoided domestic attachments. She treasured her large New York apartment at Broadway and 56th Street as a symbol of her accomplishments. She traveled extensively for her work, but when home, she entertained friends and shared in their family celebrations. On Thanksgiving, she always invited friends and family to enjoy the exceptional view of the Macy's parade from her third floor apartment overlooking the parade route.

Only in a private journal did Bubley provide a rare statement of her private feelings and growing self-confidence:

Page from Esther Bubley's diary
Page from Esther Bubley's diary. Courtesy of Esther Bubley estate.

Feb. 18 1952 Rome Italy. The Realta Hotel in a white room with watermelon curtains. I think that the wonderful thing that is happening or has happened to me is that I am growing up; or I am grown up and enjoying it. I have found the human race. It is like finding one's family at last. I have no more silly questions about what is art or why is art. Seeing the great works of the Italian Renescance [sic] has answered them. It is a personal thing. These people are my ancestors in spirit if not in fact. I think feeling like this must be akin to feeling religion although it is different. No questions are answered but they need not be.

In the 1960s, when the popularity of illustrated magazines began to wane, Bubley reduced her travel schedule and worked mainly in New York. A passionate gardener and pet-owner, Bubley took on many independent book projects featuring animals and plants. Her photographs of Central Park, where she went daily, were exhibited frequently. Health problems took an increasing toll in her later years.

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  October 22, 2010
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