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HomeContentsThemes > Rise of the photographic magazines

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The quality of the propaganda material produced in Weimar Germany (1919-1933) has meant that it has overshadowed other areas of the world where photographs were used in magazine production. Czechoslovakia, Russia, Holland all experimented with illustrated magazines and in the United States LIFE was first issued on 23 November 1936 and the UK Lilliput (1937-) and Picture Post (1938-) had enormous circulations. These encouraged the careers of many photojournalists as the demand for fresh images and different approaches developed. By the time the Second World War started in 1939 photographic magazines were the accepted way for the public to get its news in a pre-television era.
  • Czechoslovakia: Within Czechoslovakia there was a flourishing of the avant-garde that came together in Prague in 1920 in the 'Devetsil' group of intellectuals and artists. The prime motivator was Karel Teige (1900-1951) and they published a number of magazines including 'ReD' that ran from 1927-1931. During this period there was a group of highly talented experimental photographers including Jaromír Funke, Jaroslav Rössler and the more traditional Josef Sudek (The 'Poet of Prague').
  • U.S.S.R.: Following the Russian Revolution (1917) the use of photography and film to encourage the revolutionary aims of the Bolsheviks was fully appreciated and supported. In 1917 the influential 'Narkompros' (the 'People's Commissariat for Education') was founded and put publishing, media and dissemination under State control. Having said this it also encouraged the graphic arts and photography allowing a flourishing of photomontage to support political and social messages through the works of a highly motivated group of photographers and artists including Boris Ignatovich, Gustav Klutsis, Valentina Kulagina, El Lissitzky, Georgii Petrusov, Alexander Rodchenko, Sergei Senkin, Arkadii Shishkin and Varvara Stepanova.
     
    Through the five year plans that dominated economic thinking the artists, photomontagists and photojournalists participated in experimental books and the wide variety of cultural magazines that were being produced for internal consumption and for propaganda uses outside of the country. In 1932 the rich diversity that had allowed theoretical and artistic photographers to mix with the proletarian photojournalists such as Arkadii Shishkin and Georgi Zelma was at an end when all artistic associations were banned by official decree.
     
    In 1930 the photomagazine 'USSR in Construction' ('SSSR na stroike') came out and as the intellectual groups were closed down and socialist realism became the dictated State style for artistic works it attracted the best designers and photographers including Max Alpert, Georgi Zelma, Boris Ignatovich, Semion Fridland, and Georgii Petrusov. The magazine was published in Russian with other editions in Spanish, English, French and German and it became a hotbed for experimental photography, photomontage and graphics. The topics covered by different issues included such stimulating issues as the industrialization of Azabajan (Azerbaijan) or the construction of the Ferganskij Canal but the husband and wife design teams of El Lissitzky / Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers and Alexander Rodchenko / Varvara Stepanova ensured visual originality.
USSR in Construction
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Alexander Rodchenko
Inside layout for "SSSR na Strojke" (USSR in Construction) Issue #12, 1935 [Parachute Issue] 
1935
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Alexander Rodchenko
Inside layout for "SSSR na Strojke" (USSR in Construction) Issue #12, 1935 [Parachute Issue] 
1935
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Alexander Rodchenko
Inside layout for "USSR in Construction" Issue #12, 1933 [White Sea Canal Issue] 
1933
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Alexander Rodchenko
Inside layout for "USSR in Construction" Issue #12, 1933 [White Sea Canal Issue] 
1933
‘USSR in Construction‘ (‘SSSR na Strojke‘) was published from 1930 to 1941 and represents the highest standards of innovative usage of typography, graphics and photographic layout.
 
The illustrations show examples of page layouts by Alexander Rodchenko and V. Stepanova from different issues of the magazine showing the merging of diverse graphical elements.
[Checklist]Click on image for details 
[Copyright and Fair Use Issues]
  • France: The dominant style of photography in French magazines up to the mid-1920's was pictorialism and because of this photomontages and collages were uncommon. Photographic magazines were common if rather traditional with titles such as 'Violà', 'Match' (1926-) but with major changes in 1938 brought about by Jean Prouvost, 'Regards', 'Marianne' and 'Vu'(1928-1938) which was founded by Lucien Vogel. There were also cultural magazines of a far smaller distribution such as 'Verve' and 'Minotaure' (1933-1939) that were more adventurous in the photographers they selected: images by many surrealist artists were included such as Salvadore Dali, Hans Bellmer, Man Ray, Brassaď, Raoul Ubac and Manuel Álvarez Bravo.
  • Holland: In the 1920's and 30's a talented group of photographers and graphic designers, including Piet Zwart, Paul Schuitema and Gerardus Kiljan, blended typography and photographs into experimental forms. In addition to the many magazines that came out of Holland ('De gemeenschap', 'De 8 en Opbouw'and 'Wij') photographs were used in posters, books, advertising and stamps.
  • Switzerland: Prior to the Second World War the major publication with photoreportage was 'Zürcher Illustrierte' edited by Arnold Kübler but in 1941 it's publisher, Conzett & Huber, closed it down because of declining advertising revenues due to the war. During it's life it had included photographs by Werner Bischof, Paul Senn, Emil Schulthess, Hans Staub and Emil Mettler. When it ceased publication it was replaced by the monthly 'du' where Arnold Kübler remained the editor until 1957.
  • USA: Perhaps the most influential of all the pictorial magazines 'LIFE' was first issued on 23 November 1936 and had its final issue on 29 December 1972. There were lots of other picture magazines that started in the 1930's and 40's in the USA that disappeared without trace including 'Click', 'Picture', 'Look' (1937-1971), 'Pic' and 'Peek' but these are long forgotten. Arthur Rothstein who had photographed for the FSA was a staff photographer and later the Technical Director of 'Look' magazine: in 1956 he published Photojournalism, Pictures for magazines and newspapers (Amphoto) that was one of the earliest books on photojournalism.
  • UK: 'Lilliput' came out in 1937 and was created by Stephan Lorant (1901-1997) but it was not a financial success and in 1938 it was sold to the newspaper owner Edward Hulton (1906-1988) for Ł20,000. The addition of advertising increased its viability and the photographs were on double page spreads and included works by André Kertész, Florence Henri, Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Brassaď, Erwin Blumenfeld, John Heartfield and Pierre Boucher. 'Lilliput' finally closed in 1960.
     
    Stephan Lorant also founded 'Picture Post' which had its first issue on 1 October 1938 and ran until 1 June 1957. In 1940 Tom Hopkinson (1905-1990) took over as editor from Stephan Lorant and the magazine became increasingly successful with weekly sales rising to 950,000 copies in December 1943 and over 1,500,000 in 1949. Photographers included Bert Hardy, Tim Gidal, Thurston Hopkins, Felix H. Man, Humphrey Spender (Lensman), Kurt Hutton, Grace Robertson and many others.
Early examples of magazines using photojournalism
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Margaret Bourke-White
Life Magazine - Vol. 1 No. 1 
1936, 23 November
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Picture Post - 13 December 1947 
1947
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Karel Teige
RED - First issue 
1927
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De 8 en Opbouw 
1932
Through the 1920s, 30s and 40s there was a growth in European and American magazines where photographs were the primary means of communication. Some used photographs in experimental ways whilst others, such as 'Picture Post' in the UK or 'LIFE' in America used them for photo reportage.
[Checklist]Click on image for details 
[Copyright and Fair Use Issues]
  • Africa: In Africa the development of the pictorial magazines was rather later with 'Drum', originally 'The African Drum', created by an Afrikaner (Robert Crisp) coming out in March 1951 in South Africa. The original magazine was not a financial success but after being taken over by James Bailey the style change and it rapidly gained a following and other editions in Nigeria (1953), Ghana (1954), East Africa (1957) and Central Africa (1966) were produced. At the height of its popularity it was up to 450,000 copies an issue and it was instrumental in showing the multifaceted sides of a racially divided society. The magazine was noted not only for its articles and photographs showing the African arts scene but also for dealing with the social ills and injustices being imposed on a daily basis.
Photographic magazine publishing
 
Fotografia Publica: Photography in Print 1919-1939
Fotografia Publica: Photography in Print 1919-1939 
  
Horacio Fernandez (Editor)
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