America in Pictures: The Story of Life Magazine

Just found this wonderful doc on Vimeo from BBC Four. Fitting, especially in view of the recent layoffs at the Chicago Sun-Times.

From the BBC Four description:

Life was an iconic weekly magazine that specialized in extraordinarily vivid photojournalism. Through its most dynamic decades, – the 40s, 50s and 60s – Life caught the spirit of America as it blossomed into a world superpower. Read by over half the country, its influence on American people was unparalleled. No other magazine in the world held the photograph in such high esteem. At Life the pictures, not the words, did the talking. As a result, the Life photographer was king.

In this film, leading UK fashion photographer Rankin celebrates the work of Life’s legendary photographers including Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White, who went to outrageous lengths to get the best picture – moving armies, naval fleets and even the population of entire towns. He travels across the USA to meet photographers Bill Eppridge, John Shearer, John Loengard, Burk Uzzle and Harry Benson who, between them, have shot the big moments in American history – from the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, the Civil Rights struggle and Vietnam to behind the scenes at the Playboy mansion and the greatest names in Hollywood.

These photographers pioneered new forms of photojournalism, living with and photographing their subjects for weeks, enabling them to capture compelling yet ordinary aspects of American life too. Rankin discovers that Life told the story of America in photographs, and also taught America how to be American.

An hour well-spent here:

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 12.45.01 PM

Share this post:


  • Thank you for sharing this BBC documentary on LIFE magazine. Some of the most precious items in my historical archive are 1960’s LIFE magazines covering JFK’s presidency and funeral. I think I will go back and look at them again…….