Thursday, 20 November 2008

New LIFE

Air Raid Over Moscow ; The Kremlin silhouetted by German Luftwaffe flare - July 26, 1941
Photographer:Margaret Bourke-White

It's great to see the vast collection of LIFE images have been added to the web for viewing. LIFE magazine was one of the most important magazines for photojournalism during the 20th century. Many of the photographers who worked for the magazine have become iconic figures, representing the golden age of photojournalism (late 1920's to mid 1950's) when the public demand for human interest stories was high.

Looking through the collections of photographs you can soon come up with some real gems. One striking image i like is above and shows an air raid taking place over Moscow. It certainly captures the intense 'lightshow' of an air raid. Margaret Bourke-White claimed in her autobiography to have been the only western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union during the war, however, she was only tolerated for a short period time before being asked to leave by the authorities. The images she took during her stay provide a fascinating look at the Soviet Union in the grip of the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa - the German invasion of the USSR.

I especially love the portraits of soldiers and Soviet citizens which, ironically, have a similar look and style to the images by Bourke-White's Soviet propaganda photographer counterparts. The heroic style of framing, the photographer looking up towards the subject from a low viewpoint, was used heavily by Soviet photographers keen to convey a heroic, almost superhuman quality to the soviet people. Maybe that similarity is just co-incidental or, more likely, Margaret Bourke-White had to work within certain visual rules of photography set down by the Soviets.

A whole assortment of images, dating from 1860 through to the 1970's, can be viewed at the LIFE photo archive which can be found at http://images.google.com/hosted/life.

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