Sunday, November 23, 2008

Life Magazine Photo Archive

Last week, the vast photo archive of Life magazine went online in an arrangement with Google. Life began in 1936. Its large-format photo journalism has spawned many iconic images of the 20th century. The magazine folded in 2000 but was revived as a newspaper supplement until April 2007. The entire archive of 10-million photographs will be posted online by early 2009, but millions of images are already available through a search at Google Images (and soon, at the Life website).

Henry Miller appears in two photo sets. In the first, he is shown riding a bicycle with his children Tony and Valentine at Big Sur in 1958. The second set features Miller in Paris during the filming of Tropic Of Cancer in 1969.

FAMILY BICYCLE OUTING AT BIG SUR, 1958
Photographer J.R. Eyerman’s first Life magazine photographs were published in 1938 (Eyerman bio: Image Museum). In 1942, he joined Life as a staff photographer, and spent much of the following years covering the war, often from the decks of U.S. navy ships. In 1958, 51-year old Eyerman was working out of Life’s Los Angeles office. About 200 miles north of L.A., the small community of Big Sur was developing a reputation as an artist colony. The previous year, in 1957, Life’s parent company, Time, had reviewed Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, calling Miller Big Sur’s “leading prophet and pressagent” (Miller articles in Time). In 1958, Eyerman was sent to Big Sur to document this burgeoning community in a photo essay.

“Rugged, Romantic World Apart: Creative Colony Finds a Haven in California's Big Sur” appeared in the July 6, 1959 issue of Life magazine (p.56-63; photo of cover: 2Neat Magazines). Besides Miller, the essay featured other Big Sur artists such as Harry Dick Ross, Eric Barker and Giles Healey (ref: 2Neat Magazines; Ebay; Jeffers Studies). Eyerman captured 66-year old Miller on a bicycle ride with his children Valentine (age 12) and Tony (age 9 or 10, depending on the exact date of the photo). Miller had been a lifelong bicycle enthusiast, so these images are fitting.

This cropped image (1958, © Time Inc) available in full: Life/Google image search.
Henry Miller and his kids on bikes, 1958: 3 photo set.

ON THE SET OF TROPIC OF CANCER, 1969
Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was made into a movie in 1969. During the summer that year, Henry arrived at the Paris set of Tropic as a consultant. Italian photographer Carlo Bavagnoli (bio: Sardegna Tourismo) was 37 years old in 1969. He’d been working between Milan and New York for much of his career, and lately Paris. He’d been working commissions for Life magazine since at least 1958. (extensive gallery of Bavagnoli photos: Getty Images)

Miller with woman in Paris, 1969. © Time Inc
At some point during Miller’s two months in Paris in 1969, Bavagnoli captured Miller socializing on the set of Joseph Strick’s Tropic of Cancer set. These include a couple of shots of Miller standing next to actor Rip Torn (in a housecoat), who portrayed Miller in the film. Ten of these photos are available in the Life photo archive, including the one above in which Miller listens to an unidentified woman.

Miller on the set of Tropic of Cancer in Paris, 1969: 10 photo set.

I can’t find a listing anywhere that suggests that this commissioned photo essay ever made the cut in any issue of Life. I even tried a keyword search for “Henry Miller” at a Life magazine content database, and the only things I get for the 1969-1971 period is reference to a photo in which Miller appears with Irving Wallace and author Jeanne Rejaunier (1969) and Miller’s essay “Picasso At 90,” which appeared in the October 29, 1971 issue of Life.

According to Time/Warner, 97% of the photos in the Life archive have “never been seen by the public” (according to this recent AFP newswire article). Framed prints of these photographs may be ordered for $79.99 and up; just click on the appropriate link on the right-hand side of each photograph.

Read my post about Henry’s return to Paris for the making of Strick’s film version of Tropic of Cancer.

15 Comments:

Blogger Eric D. Lehman said...

Wow - this is a great resource, not just for Miller. Great find.

2:06 pm  
Anonymous sophie said...

I am huge Henry Miller AND Life magazine lover. Both have influenced my writing to great degrees. Thank you!
I've been following your blog since I stumbled across it in NY, the hell hole that HM despises so much.

Thanks again. Henry is a truly genius writer.

9:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice site.

For what its worth, the three photo Life Magazine set of Henry Miller and his two children at Big Sur,was taken in the empty swimming pool at Big Sur State Park. The pool has since been filled in.

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