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After graduating from the University of Missouri, Marie Hansen went to the Louisville Courier-Journal where she was a photographer and photo editor. She soon realized that she loved being behind the camera, and was offered a job to join the team of LIFE staff photographers in 1942. Hansen was the third female staff photographer hired at LIFE magazine, along with Margaret Bourke-White and Hansel Mieth.
Hansen’s first big story for LIFE was her photo-essay on the WAAC’s, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which was first organized in the United States, May 12, 1942. Hansen took the first photographs of the WAAC’s in Fort Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1945, Hansen went to Hollywood for LIFE, where Joseph Pasternak (Hungarian-born film producer who worked for Universal in the 1930s and MGM in the 1940s – 1968) insisted that Hansen take a screen test as soon as he saw her. Hansen accepted, once she discovered it was not a gag. In the middle of a scene with Walter Pidgeon, Hansen broke off to ask LIFE photographer, Peter Stackpole, who was taking photographs of the event, whether he had “gotten the picture.” She was offered a contract, but turned it down because she realized she was more interested in what was going on behind the camera than in front of it. Hansen kept right on making photographs for LIFE magazine.
After Hollywood, Hansen was stationed in Washington, D.C. where she was assigned to the White House during most of World War II. General Dwight D. Eisenhower chose one of Hansen’s portraits of him as his “official” photograph.
In 1946, Hansen left LIFE as a staff photographer, and she and her husband David Wesley toured the world as a writer – photographer team. David Wesley was a left-wing journalist for the York (Pennsylvania) Daily and Gazette. In the mid-1960s, Hansen was on staff of the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia, California.
[Contributed by the Alan Klotz Gallery, October 2007]