The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > January 2010 > Have a Look at Brooks
Have a Look at Brooks

In 1951 Look magazine hired its first female staff photographer, Charlotte Brooks. The only long-term woman staff photographer in the magazine's nearly 35-year run, she documented politics, health and science, education, families, urban and suburban issues, entertainment, racial conflicts and women's roles. As “one of the guys,” her assignments were on par with those of male photographers and not relegated to the soft news to which most of her female colleagues were confined.

Photographer Charlotte Brooks smiling and holding her camera while standing inside a manhole. 1957. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-09865 (digital file from original neg.); call No.: Unprocessed in PR 13 CN 1994:017 [item] [P&P] Portrait of Martha Graham and Bertram Ross. 1961. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-116601 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: LC-USZ62-116601 (b&w film copy neg.)

The Library has the largest body of Brooks' work available for research, with more than 100,000 photographs in the Look Magazine Photograph Collection. They’ve also put together a handy resource guide that includes a bibliography, image sampler and biographical essay. Some interesting tidbits: Brooks isn’t her true maiden name; she changed it from Finkelstein while in college to avoid anti-Semitism. She also didn’t initially set out to become a photographer; her primary goal was to become a certified social worker.

Prior to Brooks’ position at Look Magazine, she joined the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration. This small group of photographers included Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn. Because of her interest in social work, Brooks was drawn to the FSA.

The Library is the home to a collection of color photographs from the FSA, later the Office of War Information.

Brooks was also trained in modern dance. Combining her love for photography and dance, she once assisted Barbara Morgan, the internationally renowned photographer of the illustrious dance innovator Martha Graham, whose collection also resides at the Library.

Graham was also well known for choreographing Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” which was commissioned by and first performed at the Library in 1944.

A story from the June 1998 Library of Congress Information Bulletin talks about the acquisition and the story behind the Copland commission.