"New York" 1948, Esther Bubley
The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) presents Esther Bubley Up Front, opening September 4, 2015 and running through January 17, 2016. Drawn from a recent donation to NMWA's collection, this spotlight exhibition presents 27 prints by Esther Bubley (1921-1998).
"During America's golden age of photojournalism, Bubley cast her discerning eye over a broad range of subjects including beauty pageants, boarding houses, schools, clinics and kitchens. Her immersive working process and compassion for her subjects yielded deeply insightful images that also subtly critique American culture on the eve of the Cold War and Civil Rights movement."
"At the well-baby clinic" 1953
Esther Bubley's archive is represented by her niece, Jean Bubley. We are both members of the American Photography Archive Group, an organization that includes many of the greats including Ruth Orkin, Arthur Rothstein, Philippe Halsman, and Fred W. McDarrah.
Jean Bubley will discuss the work of her aunt in a gallery talk at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, August 27, 2015.
"Born in Phillips, Wisconsin, Bubley developed a passion for photography while serving as her high school's yearbook editor. She set out for New York City in 1940 to become a professional photographer. After a brief stint at Vogue magazine, she moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a darkroom assistant to Roy Stryker at the Office of War Information (OWI). With Stryker's encouragement, Bubley began photographing neighborhoods and activities around Washington, recording the effects of World War II on the community. One of few OWI photographers who worked primarily with 35 mm and other small handheld cameras, Bubley developed a dynamic point-and-shoot style that enabled her to photograph from unusual angles."
"High school, in a classroom" 1945
"During the 1930s, images created by Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White and others made clear to government agencies and commercial clients that women could excel as photographers."
"In 1943, Stryker promoted Bubley to the position of OWI field photographer. She contributed more than 2,000 images to the OWI file over the course of that year. In these early photo-essays, Bubley's ability to capture people in natural, unaffected poses is evident. She immersed herself in her assignments, touring on buses for weeks to document American bus travel and profiling a serviceman's family at home. When Roy Stryker left the OWI in late 1943 to establish a photographic library for the Standard Oil Company, Bubley followed, documenting the impact of the oil industry around the U.S. and beyond. One of her best-known assignments for Standard Oil depicted life in Tomball, Texas. Living in the town for six weeks, Bubley took more than 600 pictures documenting the town's commerce, industry, schools, churches and recreation. In her photographs, Tomball's citizens appear natural and unaffected, often unsmiling or not looking at the camera - a reflection of the artist's ability to work unnoticed."
"Backstage in Quest to Be Miss America, Atlantic City, New Jersey" 1957
All images by Esther Bubley, courtesy Jean B. Bubley, thanks to Nicole Straus Public Relations and Margery Newman.