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HomeContentsPhotobooks > Book Details
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Life's America: Family and Nation in Postwar Photojournalism 
 
  
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Product Details 
  
 
Paperback 
218 pages 
Temple Univ Press 
Published 1994 
  
From School Library Journal 
  
 
  
 
  
Post-World War II America was uniquely depicted in the major media publication of the era, Life magazine. Historian Kozol explores the concept of domesticity portrayed in Life's imagery as a political and social ideology of the 1950s and 1960s. Using ``gender, sexuality, race, and class as frames of analysis,'' Kozol argues that the magazine presented an idealized white middle-class view of what was actually a multicultural society plagued by racist and discriminatory attitudes. Her positions are well reasoned and aptly supported by the selected photographs. The discussion of Life's influence on photojournalism and the photojournalist tradition as a whole is exceptionally well done, offering a welcome perspective on the history of the era. Highly recommended for academic photography, photojournalism, and history collections.-Kathy Anderson, Indiana Ctr. for Global Business, Indiana Univ., Bloomington 
  
 
  
Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.  
  
 
  
From the Publisher 
  
Life magazine's news photos reveal an unrealistic portrait of Cold War era politics and domestic life --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.  
  
 
  
Book Description 
  
As the first periodical to present news stories through photographs, Life appealed to middle-class Americans as they faced the conflicts and the rapid changes of Cold War society. Life's photo-essays rendered such pressing concerns as world and domestic politics, labor disputes, civil rights protests, and social and economic mobility as human interest stories. By focusing on families, these stories portrayed major social issues in terms of personal achievement and adherence to particular values.  
  
 
  
Shaping a reassuring portrait of America, Life depicted the ideal family as white, suburban, and middle-class. For one representative feature story, the cover photograph shows an unfinished house in which a kneeling woman embraces two blond girls, and a man in a business suit protectively holds a toddler. The caption reads, "Family Buys 'Best $15,000 House.'" The cost of the house suggests this is a middle-class family with a bright future. The celebratory picture of this family with a bright future reveals no hint of the political and economic instability of the era.  
  
 
  
Wendy Kozol's readings of such photographs and their accompanying texts show how Life normalized the affluent nuclear family and supported middle-class consumption by defining the family as much by their possessions as by their conformity to traditional gender roles. Photo-essays about other social groups also focused on nuclear families and the quest for the "American Dream"; minimizing the differences between social groups and experiences in this way enabled the magazine to present middle-class culture as a nationally shared ideal.  
  
 
  
Using feminist and cultural studies perspectives, Kozol considers how layout, composition, lighting, framing, and subject matter influenced Life's representation of domestic ideology. Life's America examines the production of visual images that for generations captured the essence of American culture and shaped photojournalism. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
 
  
 
 
  
 
  
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