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Esther Bubley (1921-1998)

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

Postwar: Magazine and Corporate Clients

Courage comes in the four year size
Courage comes in the four year size. 1950.

From 1944 until 1950, Roy Stryker hired Bubley for freelance projects for Standard Oil of New Jersey (SONJ). Most important were her story of Texas oil boom towns and her second bus series, the latter earning an award for the Best Picture Sequence in the Encyclopedia Britannica/University of Missouri School of Journalism "News Pictures of the Year" (1948).

In 1950, when he directed the Pittsburgh Photographic Project, Stryker hired Bubley again, this time for a series on the city's Children's Hospital, an assignment which also garnered awards. Over time, documentation of medical situations made up a major theme in her portfolio.

After World War II, when most American women felt pressured to be wives and mothers, Bubley actively pursued her career. In her magazine assignments, she focused on the return of women to the home, exploring not only their domestic activities but also their emotional adjustments. Bubley's work, especially for women's magazines reflects the growing interest in psychological well-being for financially comfortable families of the Cold War era. In 1948, Bubley began a major series of photo-essays for Ladies' Home Journal called "How America Lives," which she continued sporadically through 1960.

From 1947 to 1965, Bubley freelanced for Life, Look, and many other magazines, specializing in stories about families, children, social service, and medicine, always finding ways to reveal to her audience the intimate or dramatic moments within a narrative.

Among Bubley's most important corporate clients, for whom she often specialized in industrial subjects, were Pan American World Airways, and Pepsi Cola. She traveled on assignment to Central and South America, Europe, North Africa, Australia, and the Philippines.

Moroccan woman, standing next to date palm, waiting for eye examination by UNICEF doctors
Moroccan woman, standing next to date palm, waiting for eye examination by UNICEF doctors. 1953.

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In 1953 UNICEF and the French government launched an ambitious and highly successful program in French Morocco (now Morocco) to control the devastating eye affliction "trachoma," an infectious disease that causes blindness unless treated. The six-month pilot program was carried out south of the Atlas Mountains where participants were treated with aureomycin twice a day, three days a month. The gratifying result was a "summer without eye sickness." UNICEF sent Bubley to Morocco in July and November 1953 to photograph the program. She traveled to the treatment areas, bouncing along in the breakdown-prone UNICEF car, to record people visiting doctors and receiving medical attention.

As early as 1943, when she received the Art Directors Club award, Bubley was recognized as a photographic artist, and her work was featured in journals such as U.S. Camera and Modern Photography. Bubley's work was featured in one-person shows in New York, New Jersey, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Helen Gee gave Bubley a one-person show at the Limelight, her legendary Greenwich Village coffee house in 1956, and Steichen included her work in several MoMA exhibitions: In and Out of Focus (1948), The Family of Man (1955), and Diogenes with a Camera, a series of exhibitions showcasing important contemporary photographers (1956).

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  March 25, 2022
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