Life MagazineIncredible Photography Sets it Apart

Kissing Soldier

Iconic “Kissing Soldier” cover photo actually turns out to be sexual assault.

Initially published in 1883, Life magazine was a part of American culture for well over a century. While at first a humor and general interest publication, It was bought by Henry Luce –the founder of Time– in 1936 in the sole interest of turning it into a weekly showcase for photojournalism. It continued as a weekly until 1972. From then until 1978 it was published intermittently with “special” status, and from 1978 to 2002 it came out monthly.

After Luce (also the founder of Fortune) took the wheel, Life magazine became the country’s photo magazine with as much space and emphasis allotted to photography as to copy. The format was an instant hit. Circulation boomed from 380,000 copies of the first issue to over a million a mere four months later.

During its reign over the genre, Life’s proficient and prolific photographers generated a plethora of iconic images. I grew up at a time when the magazine was starting to lose circulation. Nonetheless, my family had a subcription and I distinctly remember looking forward to the next issue to see what fantastic images would be on offer.

Check out David Hoffman’s 1 hour documentary below which he created for the 50th anniversary of Life magazine. In it he interviews many of Life magazine’s photojournalists like Alfred Eisenstadt, Gordon Parks, and others in order to understand American and world history through their eyes.


For a comprehensive overview of the history of Life magazine, check out the Wikipedia article from which the majority of the above was compiled.

To read how Alfred Eisenstaedt’s “Kissing Sailor” cover image went from one of the most romantic moments ever captured on camera to a blatant case of sexual assault, check out this Huffington Post article.

About The Author

Graphic Design & Artist

I’m Ed Ward of Mental Ward Design, and I’m a graphic designer, art director, and production artist. I specialize in image manipulation and graphic design using Photoshop, but I don't stop there. I hold a BFA degree from Rutgers University and have years of experience as a Graphic Designer, Marketing Manager, Art Director and Director of Advertising for companies in the Entertainment, Motorcycle, and Wholesale Travel industries. Since 1998 I’ve devoted my professional efforts to full-time independent graphic design.