Boston University News Release

2nd November, 2001

BU Art Gallery Presents Esther Bubley: American Photojournalist Exhibition

(Boston, Mass.) — The Boston University Art Gallery presents the Esther Bubley: American Photojournalist exhibition featuring published versions of Bubley’s photography and 86 vintage prints. The exhibition, from Friday, Nov. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 16, calls attention to American social history between the advent of World War II and the Vietnam War, marking a fresh approach to the artistic and cultural accomplishments of photojournalism.

The exhibition casts the spotlight on Bubley’s prominent place at a great moment in the history of American photography. During her life, Bubley was a leading photographer during the golden age of American picture magazines. She worked on both commissioned and free-lance projects through the course of her career.

"Bubley’s work is on a par with many of the better-known photojournalists of her generation, such as W. Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks, and Margaret Bourke-White," says BonnieYochelson, exhibition curator. "Her photographs reflect a modernist aesthetic in the pursuit of representations of American life."

At the age of 21, Bubley moved to Washington D.C. to work for Roy Stryker at the Farm Security Administration’s photography unit, then a division of the Office of War Information. Her career gained momentum when she followed Stryker in 1943 to the Standard Oil Company in New Jersey where he was tapped to create a collection of photography that focused on images related to their activities. The Standard Oil Company launched a public relations campaign to show that "there’s a drop of oil in everything," a mandate broad enough to allow photographers freedom to depict almost any aspect of modern life.

Along with her work for Stryker, Bubley launched a brilliant free-lance career, says Yochelson. In the 1940s, many of the American picture magazines that Bubley worked for had circulations in the millions. Her work appeared regularly in publications such as Life and McCalls. She also worked for corporate clients who published high-quality general interest magazines for their stockholders.

"Bubley was a skilled industrial photographer, creating powerful compositions under technically challenging conditions," says Yochelson. "She was also a perceptive ‘people photographer,’ achieving an uncanny intimacy with her subjects." A hallmark of the period was the photo-essay, in which a sequence of photographs with captions formed a multi-page narrative. Bubley was a fluent master of this form, relying on small cameras and available light to capture events as they unfolded.

Yochelson will deliver the lecture "Esther Bubley and the Art of the Photo-Essay" at the exhibition opening on Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. A reception will follow. John Stomberg, director of the Boston University Art Gallery will give a gallery talk, "Esther Bubley and the American Picture Press," on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. The exhibition and gallery events are free and open to the public.

To download images from the Esther Bubley exhibition, go to

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