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Henry Luce, an inﬂuential American publisher, helped transform journalism and the reading habits of upscale Americans. He founded the pictorial Life magazine, which launched on November 23, 1936. Life was a picture magazine of politics, culture and society that dominated American visual perceptions in the era before television. Luce was convinced that pictures could tell a story instead of just illustrating text. The ﬁrst issue of Life, which was sold for ten cents and 380,000 copies, featured ﬁve pages of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s pictures. During a time when American was in the midst of the Great Depression and the world was headed toward war, Life magazine was connecting the world one issue at a time. The photo magazine gave as much space and importance to pictures as to words. The text was condensed into captions for 50 pages of pictures in 1936. The quality of the paper was high, and only cost readers a dime. Four months after the ﬁrst issue, the magazine’s circulation skyrocketed to more than one million copies per week. The location of Life magazine was at 19 West 31st Street. It moved to editorial ofﬁces at 9 Rockefeller Plaza. From 1936 to the mid 1960’s, Life magazine was in its “hayday.” The magazine became archly conservative, and attacked organized labor and trade unions. Life was pro-American and backed the war effort each week. The magazine brought World War II home to Americans and was so iconic that it was imitated in enemy propaganda using contrasting images of Life and Death. In May of 1950 the council of ministers in Cairo banned Life from Egypt, forever due to offensive article on King Farouk. Also in the 50’s, Life’s motto became “To see Life; see the world." In May 1959 it announced plans to reduce its regular newsstand price to 19 cents a copy from 25 cents. With the increase in television sales and viewership, interest in news magazines was gradually decreasing. The celebrity and movie stars of 1960’s (President John F. Kennedy and family, Elizabeth Taylor, and Richard Burton) ﬁlled the magazine. The interest of LSD in the mass media was shown in articles in the late 60’s. In March 1967 Life won the 1967 National Magazine Award. However, in 1971, shrinking advertising revenues were causing Life to reduce its circulation from 8.5 million to 7 million. Within a year, Life cut its circulation from 7 million to 5.5 million beginning with the January 14, 1972, issue, publisher Gary Valk announced. From 1972 to 1978, Life published Special Reports including “The Year in Pictures” and “Remarkable American Women,” with copies selling at $2. Life was not losing money, but its costs were rising faster than its proﬁts. In 1978, Life re-emerged as a monthly, and with this resurrection came a new, modiﬁed logo. The magazine sustained for the next 22 years as a moderately successful general interest news features magazine. The cover price in 1986 was $2.50. In early 1993, the magazine announced it would be printed on smaller pages with the original logo. According to Wikipedia, Life reduced its advertising prices by 35 percent to make the publication more appealing to advertisers. It also reduced its circulation to 1.5 million copies instead of 1.7 million. As we entered the 21st Century, Life magazine was ceased by Time Inc with the last issue in May 1999. Since 1960’s, the change in the magazine was caused by the introduction of television and thus more readers transforming into viewers. Time Inc. executives said a key reason for closing the title in 2000 was to divert resources to the company’s other magazine launches that year, such as Real Simple. It’s parent company released Times Mirror magazines
that included Golf, Ski, Skiing, Field & Stream, and Yachting. As of October 2004, Life resumed to a weekly publication as a free supplement to U.S. newspapers. Its main competitors included Parade and USA Weekend. The new motto is “America’s Weekend Magazine” underneath the same logo advertising. Newspapers that carry Life include the Washington Post, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Unfortunately, only three years later, Time Inc. announced it would fold the magazine as of April 20, 2007 but keep its website open to loyal readers. For the future of Life magazine and its content, I project that future generations will be using the Google image search and the Life archive as a resource to the photographs that were featured in the actual magazine publications. (Even some photographs that were never published are available.) Also, Google Book Search includes the main issues from 1936-1972. The website, www.life.com is user-friendly and attractive advertising. The magazine’s photography on the website is artistically expressive and a gateway into the realism of American culture.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_%28magazine%29#The_photojournalism_magazine http://www.life.com/