Rise of the Picture Press: Photographic Reportage in Illustrated Magazines, 1918-1939  

March 27 – June 16, 2002


Martin Munkacsi
Ferienfreude (Vacation Pleasure)
cover of Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, July 21, 1929
Collection of the International Center of Photography

On view at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street, from March 27 through June 16, 2002, Rise of the Picture Press: Photographic Reportage in Illustrated Magazines, 1918-1939 will explore the period in the 1920s and 1930s when innovative photography and graphic design joined forces in the pages of large-format weekly magazines. The exhibition will present approximately 130 examples (primarily from ICP’s collection) of rare European and American publications, such as Vu, Regards, Weekly Illustrated, Picture Post, Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, Münchner Illustrierte Presse, Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung, USSR in Construction, Projektor, Life, and Look. Among the photographers whose works are highlighted in the publications are figures such as André Kertész, Martin Munkacsi, Alexander Rodchenko, Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, Bill Brandt, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and John Heartfield.

Many of the photographs that are now considered 20th-century classics first reached the public in the pages of lavishly produced magazines that were themselves classics of dynamic graphic design. These publications spurred the emergence of photography as a key medium of visual communication, thanks to the collaboration of inventive photographers and such innovative young picture editors as Alexander Liberman and Stefan Lorant. Yet because these magazines were considered disposable and were seldom preserved, most have faded from memory.


The exhibition will also shed light on a crucial moment in U.S. media history: the arrival in the 1930s of a wave of émigré photographers and picture editors who helped shape such American magazines as Life and Look. In addition, the exhibited materials will provide provocative perspectives on issues of media culture that are still with us: the blurring of news and entertainment, the transformation of political leaders into celebrities, and the portrayal of women’s roles in modern society. Rise of the Picture Press takes a fresh look at influential publications that have lost none of their power to visually surprise and delight.


This exhibition has been organized by ICP curator Christopher Phillips and curatorial assistant Vanessa Rocco. It is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.