Image for America in Pictures: The Story of Life MagazineNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Duration: 1 hour

Life was an iconic weekly magazine that specialised in extraordinarily vivid photojournalism. Through its most dynamic decades, - the 40s, 50s and 60s - Life caught the spirit of America as it blossomed into a world superpower. Read by over half the country, its influence on American people was unparalleled. No other magazine in the world held the photograph in such high esteem. At Life the pictures, not the words, did the talking. As a result, the Life photographer was king.

In this film, leading UK fashion photographer Rankin celebrates the work of Life's legendary photographers including Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White, who went to outrageous lengths to get the best picture - moving armies, naval fleets and even the population of entire towns. He travels across the USA to meet photographers Bill Eppridge, John Shearer, John Loengard, Burk Uzzle and Harry Benson who, between them, have shot the big moments in American history - from the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, the Civil Rights struggle and Vietnam to behind the scenes at the Playboy mansion and the greatest names in Hollywood.

These photographers pioneered new forms of photojournalism, living with and photographing their subjects for weeks, enabling them to capture compelling yet ordinary aspects of American life too. Rankin discovers that Life told the story of America in photographs, and also taught America how to be American.

Last on

Wed 27 Feb 2013 02:00 BBC Four

  • All American season

    All American season

    This programme is part of All American, a BBC Four season about US culture. You can also watch further programmes from the BBC archives, online and in full, in the All American Collection.

    Go to the BBC Four All American Collection
  • BBC TV Blog: Rankin on the photojournalism of Life Magazine

    BBC TV Blog: Rankin on the photojournalism of Life Magazine

    “Working in the field, the Life photographers were repeatedly put in danger, and exposed to instances of life and death. They prioritised the image over salary and personal safety.”

    Read and comment on Rankin’s post

Credits

Presenter
Rankin
Presenter
Rankin
Producer
Jack Cocker
Producer
Jack Cocker
Director
Jack Cocker
Director
Jack Cocker
Executive Producer
Susanne Curran
Executive Producer
Susanne Curran

Broadcasts

Featured in...

  • All American

    A collection of classic BBC programmes about US culture. Available to watch online.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss