Saturday, October 3, 2009

A LIFE Time Ago

Vitalis Advertisement from LIFE magazine

In my book, Google Books is one of the best things to come down the pike in a long time. Just the other day I learned the entire run of LIFE is now on Google Books.

A quick trip through those vintage magazines reminds you how photojournalism has all but disappeared from the American scene. While it seems almost as anachronistic as the manufacture of buggy whips, photojournalism lives on. One of this year’s MacArthur geniuses, Lynsey Addario, is a Turkish photojournalist. Her work from Darfur and other trouble spots demonstrates why photojournalism is still important.

Out of curiosity, I revisited LIFE magazine from the week I was born. Without a doubt, that very issue was sitting on the coffee table when I was brought home from the hospital. The cover featured one of those classic black-and-white images, a cowpoke and his son on their Arizona ranch:

A couple of articles looked at the new trend of discount houses and how they posed a challenge to traditional department stores:

It began nine years ago, when the great postwar shopping spree set off a series of border incidents between the nation’s big, manorial department stores and a small, night-riding band of price cutters operating establishments known as discount houses.

I didn’t know it until I looked through this issue, but an innovative aircraft launched at practically the same time I did:

The U. S. is in the air at last with its own jet transport, the Boeing 707. Flexibly designed to serve either as a commercial passenger plane or military aerial tanker, the new jet can cross the continent in five hours with a payload of 130 passengers, propelled by the 40,000 pound thrust of its jet engines.

Then, as now, “nukes” and “the Middle East” showed up in the same story:

If the Free World’s position in the Far East is grim, happily some hopeful gains are being made in the equally vital Middle East. …As Churchill knows, the realities of the H-bomb lessen the importance of guarding the Suez with conventional forces…

And LIFE magazine, from the week I was born, included some truly frightening photographs. Amateur inventors Bill Gaffney and Tom Weaver of Long Beach, California combined pogo sticks with stilts to create devices that allowed them to dunk a basketball.

The aluminum "Hoppers" gave them the ability to jump nine feet off the ground straight up and to take 10-foot strides.

Seeing those pictures, I can’t imagine anything other than broken legs.

All the photos above were from LIFE, but I thought I would add one other picture. Unfortunately, I can’t locate a shot of me as a newborn. So for purposes of this nostalgia trip, we’ll have to jump forward just a few months:

This photo suggests there was a brief time in my existence when I actually possessed some small degree of charm. However, that time was far too early for me to even remember!

Oh well, as they always say…

…that’s LIFE!


Anonymous said...

You are indeed charming; you charm us daily with this blog.
And you are precious in that baby picture!

GULAHIYI said...

You know better than that! I'll 'fess up to being a cranky old embittered curmudgeon...but charming, no...

Glenda said...

I enjoyed this post so much. I remember the wonderful photo essays in Life. Each photo was a work of art and told a story.
The pictures made me feel something deep inside. Even as a young person, I recognized that.

GULAHIYI said...

Well stated. Very often, those black-and-white photos were more, rather than less, powerful for their lack of color. I wonder if having something like Life magazine as a fixture in the culture "teaches" people to look at photographs differently. When I saw the death of the Iranian protestor (on cell phone video) I thought of that iconic (b&w still) photograph of the Kent State protestor that had been gunned down. Sometimes "less" is more. But that's just how I learned to see it.