Horace Bristol is one of the original
Time/LIFE photographers and the impetus for John Steinbecks Pulitzer Prize-winning epic The Grapes of Wrath. His images of WWII are some of the best known and most revealing war
photographs taken during the 20th Century.
Bristols celebrated career began when he was invited to be one of the original LIFE Magazine
photographers. His work was published in conjunction with such photographers as Margaret Bourke-White
and Alfred Eisenstaedt. Assignments granted to the young 28-year-old Bristol led to numerous LIFE
covers and spreads and included such honors as covering the construction of Coulee Dam, the untouched
and fairly unknown islands of Bali, the famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and more.
In 1937, Bristol began making his numerous expeditions to Californias Central Valley with
renowned FSA photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange shared Bristols interest and compassion
for the plight of the Central Valley migrant workers and the unemployed in San Francisco during
The Great Depression. With a story submission in mind for his employer Time Magazine, Bristol
persuaded John Steinbeck to collaborate on the story, who then accompanied Bristol on subsequent
trips to Central Valley. There they met, photographed, and interviewed the real migrant workers,
Tom Joad, his Ma and Pa, Little Ruthie, Winfield, and others, who would become the namesakes of
Steinbecks characters in The Grapes of Wrath. [This year happens to be the 100th
anniversary of John Steinbecks birth. Click Grapes of Wrath image to see series.]
After the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, Bristol was recruited by Edward Steichen, the most
influential photographer of the 20th Century, to be one of five photographers to document World
War II under his U.S. Naval command. Bristol, like a true magazine and newspaper man, captured
images of patriotism and heroism with the human interest story as the visual focal point. His
most recognized image from this time is of a young PBY Blister Gunner nude at his post after rescuing
a fellow officer [click on image].
Bristols career led him to Asia following World War II, where he spent 25 years documenting
the rapid modernization of Japan, Korea, China, Burma, and Formosa (now Taiwan). He returned to
the states with his new bride and two children and lived in Ojai, California, until his death
from Life: The Photography of Horace Bristol
Bristol: An American View
Angels (Picture This) [contributor]
Images courtesy of The Stephen Cohen Gallery.
Special thanks go to the Horace Bristol Estate and
Madeleine Huttenbach of The Stephen Cohen Gallery.