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LIFE A Story of America in 100 Photos

LIFE A Story of America in 100 Photos

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LIFE A Story of America in 100 Photos

Lungime:
207 pages
1 hour
Editor:
Lansat:
Jun 29, 2018
ISBN:
9781547843855
Format:
Carte

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LIFE, long the chronicler of American life, now presents this beautiful special edition A Story of America in 100 Photographs.
Editor:
Lansat:
Jun 29, 2018
ISBN:
9781547843855
Format:
Carte

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LIFE A Story of America in 100 Photos - The Editors of LIFE

GLOBE/GETTY

INTRODUCTION

ALL THEY ARE SAYING

By Kostya Kennedy

A great photograph tells not one story but many, through what it plainly reveals and through what it suggests. And great photographers—like great writers, artists, carpenters, farmers, clergy, all—see beyond the limitations of their talent, beyond their resources, to something more. Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential, the LIFE photojournalist W. Eugene Smith once observed. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.

Two of Smith’s photographs (Country Doctor and Burning Cross) are included in this volume of LIFE, A Story of America in 100 Photographs. Dozens of the others were taken by his colleagues and peers. Indeed, all of the photos in this story have appeared in the magazine or book or website pages of LIFE, which has long been a chronicler of American life. The images trace back to 1850 (soon after the dawn of photography itself, and shortly before the United States was solidified into the Union as we know it now) and continue, with gorgeous and colorful aplomb, into this 21st century, the world around us now. They are delivered here through the decades, each image augmented by a body of text, a story in words and facts meant to add context and understanding, meant to illuminate and open up more than to guide.

If a single photo—and the sentences nestled beside it—carries so many strands of meaning, so then does a collection of photos, bearing a narrative that is at once available in pieces and available as a whole. This collection. This narrative. The Beatles land in America. A POW returns home. A chief waters his horse near Wounded Knee. A girl goes to school in Arkansas. Mr. B hugs a Billy soxer. Dancers twirl. A car travels Route 66, a bird sits on the sunlit water, an airplane flies through the city sky. Moments and images can be small and infinite at once.

It has been said that you don’t take a photograph, you simply borrow it, nabbing a bit of history, adding those hints of possibility, so as to stand, looking forward or back, on the threshold.

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

San Francisco Bay, 1951

MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE/LIFE/THE PICTURE COLLECTION

You could say it took 65 years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, a life span, if you will. It’s an American story of persistence. A bridge across the mouth of San Francisco Bay, from the city on the peninsula to Marin County, was proposed in 1872. Given that this was a distance of almost two miles over fierce currents, many said it couldn’t be done. It took until 1919 for a feasibility study to be done and an engineer assigned. Arguments ensued for years. By 1930, there were an estimated 2,300 lawsuits from opponents to the bridge’s construction, ranging from ferry operators to naturalists. There were arguments about the paint color too: The Navy wanted black and yellow stripes; the Army Air Corps wanted red and white stripes. The designer finally chose international orange. In 1933, construction began. Eleven workers died during the building; another 19 were saved by a safety net. On May 27, 1937, the bridge was opened. Sixty-five years. And it’s a beauty. It is (unofficially, of course) the most photographed bridge in the world. How to distinguish one picture from the many? In 1951, Margaret Bourke-White did it by shooting the Golden Gate from a helicopter.

1850-1899

BLACKFEET MOTHERS AND THEIR CHILDREN

Montana Territory, 1881

MONTANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY RESEARCH CENTER PHOTOGRAPH ARCHIVES, HELENA, MT

By 1881, when this picture was taken, the Blackfeet Nation had lived on the northwestern Plains, in what is now Montana on the border of Canada, for more than 10,000 years, according to tribal oral history. They were among the strongest and most aggressive military powers in the area, with a culture focused on warfare and bison. From the early 1800s until about 1830, the Blackfeet had successfully defended their territory against British, French, and American fur traders seeking to trap beaver in the tributaries of the Missouri River. Yet even as the powerful tribe impeded to some extent the westward expansion of the United States, it also began to interact with white settlers. The new trading posts became important to the Blackfeet’s economic and social lives. Tribe members learned about and adopted guns. They began ceding territory. And as the 19th century drew to a close, the Blackfeet Nation, like many of the other Native American tribes, had been decimated almost to extinction. Their population in the Montana territory was less than 2,000, down from 15,000 decades earlier, and almost all of their fighting bands had been pushed onto reservations. The end of their nomadic civilization was near, observed one chief, in lament. When we settle down, we grow pale and die.

THE FACE OF SUFFERING

South Carolina, 1850

COURTESY OF THE PEABODY MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, PM# 35-5-10/53037

In a 1997 edition LIFE, the man pictured above was described as a South Carolina slave, photographed in 1850, who, like other slaves, had suffered greatly before the Civil War. The same year the photo was taken, Congress passed the controversial Fugitive Slave Act, ordering escaped slaves to be returned to their masters and for people living in free states in the North to comply. The law dissipated with the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and the Civil War, but the painful reality was that life for ex-slaves was often little better in the years after emancipation than it had been before. Many who escaped during the war ended up in encampments that were former slave pens. Not only were conditions unsanitary and food limited, but to leave often meant the ex-slave had to agree to return to a plantation. The situation only worsened in the chaos after the war ended, when hundreds of thousands of freed slaves died of disease and malnutrition—a terrible fate, but one that still was preferable to relinquishing newly won freedoms. Between 1932 and 1975, the Library of Congress recorded the accounts of thousands of former slaves. Among them was Fountain Hughes, 101 when he was interviewed in 1949. Asked about the postwar horrors compared to slavery, Hughes was clear: If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away. Because you’re nothing but a dog.

BATTLEFIELD AT BULL RUN

Manassas, Virginia, 1862

GEORGE BARNARD/MPI/ARCHIVE PHOTOS/GETTY

The serenity of the scene belies the bloody chaos that had erupted here just months earlier. On the morning of July 21, 1861, vast congregations of ill-trained soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies began to move toward this spot in the Virginia countryside. The Union would call it the First Battle of Bull Run, named for a small river flowing through; the Confederates would call it the First Battle of Manassas, named for the nearest city. By this time, the North and the South couldn’t agree on much of anything.

By either name, it was the first major land battle of the Civil War, with some 18,000 fighting on either side. It would last but one day yet leave 4,700 men dead. A disordered attack by the Union Army and a key stand by the brigade of little-known Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson, who here would earn his

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