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Esther Bubley Exhibition of Photographs Coming to the National Museum of Women in the Arts

  • National Museum of Women in the Arts library
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts
August 17, 2015
Studied Photography at IED in Milan, Italy. Passionate about art, frequent visitor of exhibitions, Widewalls photography specialist and Editor-in-Chief.

One of the greatest things about photojournalism is that it gives us a different view of the world around us, gets us acquainted with other people’s cultures, traditions, emotions. In the latest Esther Bubley exhibition coming to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C., we will be able to witness a raw kind of intimacy through the art of photography and the lens of a woman whose work was all but ordinary. Esther Bubley introduces us to the American society of the mid-20th century via a series of photographs which communicate life in all its honesty.

National Museum of Women in the Arts library work life photographers stryker contact school home
Left: Esther Bubley – Rockefeller Center—New York, New York, 1950. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in. / Right: Esther Bubley – Homemaker, Children’s Aid Society—New York, New York, 1952. Gelatin silver print, 13 1/2 x 9 1/4 in.. Gift of Kenneth and Lori Polin and Family. Copyright Jean B. Bubley

The (Extra)Ordinary Art of Esther Bubley

The photos of Esther Bubley set the standard in photojournalism, because of her dedication and thriving relationship with the subjects of her photographs. By immersing into the everyday lives of families, she manages to capture important moments, such as family dinners, gatherings, but also the events of communities, beauty pageants, school classes. By spending significant amounts of time and developing trust with the people she would photograph, Esther Bubley managed to evoke genuine emotions, as if they were completely unaware of the camera. She extensively documented the impact of wars and the oil industry on the Americans, creating a kind of valuable social archive, made of images usually accompanied by observant captions deriving from her notes. Esther Bubley’s portraits are the result of great patience and persistence in wanting to transmit the right impression of the modern world she lived in.

National Museum of Women in the Arts library work life photographers stryker contact school home
Left: Esther Bubley – High school, in a classroom, 1945. Gelatin silver print, 7 5/8 x 7 7/8 in. Gift of Diana and Gabriel Wisdom. Copyright Standard Oil (New Jersey), Photographic Archives, University of Louisville / Right: Esther Bubley – Untitled (Washington, D.C.), 1943. Gelatin silver print, 9 x 8 in. Gift of Jill and Jeffrey Stern. Copyright Jean B. Bubley

A Photojournalism Master

Esther Bubley worked mainly in Washington D.C., where she became a darkroom assistant at the Office of War Information (OWI) in the early 1940s. Working with small cameras, she learned to be quick and unnoticed, as she photographed neighborhoods around the city. With Roy Stryker of OWI, she came to establish a photographic library for the Standard Oil Company, for which she created an incredible visual archive. By the late 1940s, she made photos for magazines like LIFE and Ladies’ Home Journal, contributing many stories on social issues, and she also worked for corporations such as Pepsi and Pan-American Airlines. Her work was included in The Family Of Man, one of the most important photography exhibitions of the past century, organized by Edward Steichen and held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1955.

National Museum of Women in the Arts library work life photographers stryker contact school home
Left: Esther Bubley – Untitled (Beauty, junior grade: the largest red ribbon on Norma’s mirror was won 11 years ago in the Saunders County “better baby” contest), n.d. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11 in / Right: Esther Bubley – Untitled (Wahoo, Nebraska), 1948. Gelatin silver print, 12 1/8 x 10 1/4 in. Gift of Jill and Jeffrey Stern. Copyright Jean B. Bubley

Esther Bubley Exhibition at the NMWA

In one of the most important exhibits dedicated to the work of photojournalist Esther Bubley, the NMWA will present 27 prints drawn from a recent donation to their collection. These images date back to the late 1940s and the early 1950s, depicting ordinary people in an extraordinary way known to be the forte of one of the greatest female photographers of the 20th century. The Esther Bubley Up Front exhibition will be on view in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C., USA, from September 4th 2015 until January 17th, 2016.

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Featured images in slider: Esther Bubley – Backstage in Quest to Be Miss America—Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1957. Gelatin silver print, 6 3/8 x 9 1/2 in. Gift of Kenneth and Lori Polin and Family, Copyright Jean B. Bubley Esther Bubley – Wahoo, Nebraska, 1948. Gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Gift of Diana and Gabriel Wisdom. Copyright Jean B. Bubley Esther Bubley – New York, New York, 1948, detail. Gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 x 9 3/4 in. Gift of Kenneth and Lori Polin and Family. Copyright Jean B. Bubley Esther Bubley – Children waiting for their mother to finish shopping, 1945, detail. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. Gift of Robert and Kathi Steinke. Copyright Standard Oil (New Jersey), Photographic Archives, University of Louisville Esther Bubley – Untitled (Boxing is a favorite sport with the boys who come to the Center), 1948, detail. Gelatin silver print, 7 1-2 x 7 1-2 in. Gift of Jill and Jeffrey Stern. Copyright Standard Oil, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville All photographs by Lee Stalsworth, courtesy the National Museum of Women in the Arts