Reading Prompt Due Sunday 5pm

According to Samantha Baskind, why were the Bristol photographs published in Life magazine? Why did Bristol have such a hard time publishing the photographs, and how did the publication of the Grapes of Wrath give them a new life?

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38 Responses to Reading Prompt Due Sunday 5pm

  1. Elana says:

    The reason why Bristol had such a hard time publishing his photos in LIFE was twofold. To begin with, LIFE magazine was not interested in Bristol’s idea of covering a story about migrant workers in California. When he originally proposed the idea after being inspired by Dr. Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange’s work for An American Exodus, LIFE Magazine said they were not interested because “it was not conducive to sales”(47,55). The editor told him that pretty girls with little clothing on the cover sold a lot more copies and that was the kind of stories they would run. However, Bristol still took the shots and came to the desk once more asking to run the photo-essay. This time, LIFE refused him for a different reason. The era of the Great Depression is known to be an era of doubt and denial. People during the time refused to believe much of anything. “Americans became so wary of journalistic and public accounts” and it was hard for any publication to gain good will with the people (50). This was because many publications and organizations, including the government, did not publish the horrors of the depression, making those who did seem exaggerated and inaccurate. Americans, however, believed that photos did tell the whole truth and thus LIFE gained a reputation of telling the truth as it is. However, LIFE knew that Americans wanted the truth as well as an escape from reality. Thus, “LIFE magazine played off the perceived mimetic quality of the photograph to document the ‘truth’ of the era in a manner that the country could handle” (51). The editors of LIFE knew that Americans could not handle Bristol’s photos. The photos were “too much”- too real- for “America’s conception of truth at the time” (49).

    However, this all changed when John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was published. The novel was an instant success and became very popular very fast. However, although some claimed it to be accurate from the start, many criticized it for its inaccurate depiction of Oklahoma and California. Talks of the novel were non-stop and many were bashing its legitimacy. Because of Bristol’s close relation to Steinbeck and the novel, LIFE finally agreed to print the photo- essay and join the debate of Steinbeck’s truthfulness. The publication proved that Steinbeck’s novel was factual by showing the photos of the citizens Steinbeck was inspired to write about. The photo-essay “contibut[ed] to the notion that the Joads were actual people and that The Grapes of Wrath’s account was factual” (61). This all went along with LIFE’s ideology to present the truth to the American people through photography. I assume they also agreed to publish it because (a) since The Grapes of Wrath was such a popular book, their articles connected to the novel would sell well and (b) they assumed it was either time to show America the real truth of the era or that Americans were becoming more accustomed to these truths because other publications were partaking in similar projects with similar photos (You Have Seen Their Faces, the FSA, etc.)

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      So Bristol’s photos were not published in their own right. They were published in order to validate Steinbeck’s novel.

  2. knkern94 says:

    LIFE magazine finally decided to publish Bristol’s photographs, after originally denying him and his proposed work, first and foremost to make a profit. LIFE picked the proper time to do so during a time when “photographs were understood as purveyors of truth, and LIFE capitalized on that idea” (55). LIFE also managed to twist the story from one of despair and suffering during the economic depression to one of hope and happiness for the future. The information was catered to readers who had been “overwhelmed by New Deal propaganda” and need to be informed “but in a less severe form than mainstream publications” (61). Although this is not necessarily a bad thing to do, it is not the story that Bristol had intended to portray. His photographs were manipulated into a propagandistic advertisement. LIFE published these photos to give the readers what they wanted and ended the debate about the truthfulness of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.
    Bristol had a difficult time publishing these photographs initially because they were viewed as extremely graphic and overbearing for readers. Bristol even agreed with those who denied this story stating “They are kind of strong pictures of the actual people. You get an idea of, you know, what they’re like. They’re too much” (49). Also, the public was getting too used to these pictures and the questions of their truth, that is to say, if they are staged stories or even being used to brainwash them to buying in to the New Deal. This all changed with the publication of The Grapes of Wrath because the public now had a complete story to match these photo narratives, not just skimpy captions and news articles. This novel gave a new and detailed look into the lives of the migrants. The Joad family became an iconic name and symbol that the public could relate within the visuals. The public had questions about the text validity at first, but at a time when pictures were taken as primary truth, neither the historical fiction nor the photos could be denied.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      I love your formulation here — that Life would only publish Bristol’s photos when they were sure they could make a profit. And their profit was assured if they could be published in conjunction with the novel which was a smash hit.

  3. Bristol had difficulty publishing his photos in Life Magazine the first time around because they were deemed too depressing and they did not tell the story that Life wanted to tell. Rather than tell an unpleasant truth, Life wanted to tell a story with charm. “Charm”, said Henry Luce, owner of the magazine, “is the most important quality which LIFE needs which cannot be extracted from the ordinary processes of journalistic thought. We find that we most necessarily plot and plan for charm” (56). The magazine at first thought that Bristol’s pictures would be too harsh. But this would change with the publication and popularity of The Grapes of Wrath and the subsequent movie.
    The magazine decided they could publish Bristol’s pictures because they would now come with a literary association. LIFE described the photos as such: “The women on the left-hand page might well be Ma Joad, Author Steinbeck’s heroine. The man with the double-edged ax is a counterpart of his hero, Tom Joad (58). The audience of the magazine could consider how similar the photographs were to the film, rather than simply being forced to consider the hardships the subjects of the photographs were enduring. This made the suffering of the subjects more palatable by undermining said suffering.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      It might be interesting to consider why their conjunction with fiction makes them more palatable. Does their relationship to fiction make them fiction? Does fiction place a wedge between the public and its documentary purpose?

  4. joezim1994 says:

    Bristol’s photographs were published in LIFE—rather than a photographic collaboration with Steinbeck as initially intended—because Steinbeck felt that this was “too great a story to be confined to a photographic book” (48). Steinbeck went on to write the famed novel Grapes of Wrath and Bristol was left searching for publication on his own. At first, no one seemed to want his photographs. LIFE in particular claimed that the pictures were “too much” (49); the pictures were too bold, too depressing. LIFE wanted to keep its image as a source for uplifting news stories for a nation overwhelmed with news of the downtrodden. However, once Grapes of Wrath was actually published, his pictures garnered attention as a way to verify the authenticity of his work. His pictures, once too truthful, were now apparently just the right amount of truth. They were published alongside captions that related real people to the fictional Joad family in LIFE magazine. LIFE seems to have had some confused ideas about the nature of truth (photographs could both “distort the truth” (56) and verify it) but ultimately, Bristol’s pictures served for them exactly the kind of truth they wanted: one that could garner attention without being too controversial. Since then, his pictures have become associated with the novel. Right or wrong, they have come to represent a different side of the truth of Steinbeck’s book.

  5. sjfrazier015 says:

    During the time in which Bristol was interested in having his photo’s published, the United States was in the midst if many crisis that occurred in close range to each other. America was in the middle of a terrible depression, the Dust Bowl had recently wiped away the lives of countless western farmers, and citizens were distrustful of the information being fed to them in the form of propaganda by the US government. The article described the American people as being in this odd state between not wanting to be lied to but also not wanted to know the desolate truths of the western United States. For this reason, many publications were hesitant to publish Bristol’s photo’s that were seen as similar to those taken by the FSA. LIFE said the stories and the photos just were “not conductive to sales” (pg. 55). But after looking through many of the photographs, LIFE felt confident that they could put together a set of photographs that would show “some of the tings which were right about America” (pg. 59). Not only were Bristol’s photographs used in a different way than originally perceived but they were also used for the “time when journalism joined in the debate about the truthfulness of Steinbeck’s novel” because “they proved the truth of Steinbeck’s story” (pg. 55/58). Amidst the criticism of “The Grapes of Wrath”, Bristol’s photos were there to validate the intentions of Steinbeck and to a certain extent, protected his reputation as a sympathizer for the California migrant farmers. And although Steinbeck eventually chose not to do a full collaboration with Bristol and his photographs, some of them were used in his novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” The readers of the novel, regardless of the fact that the novel was fictional, wanted to believe the people being shown in the pictures were the true Joads and “in the end, Bristol understood his prints…to be the original Joads” (pg. 67). While the American people were hesitant to face the realities of the nation in front of them, the fact that they had real faces to attach to an issue gave them the sense of truth that they felt they were being deprived of from the United States.

  6. alangdon93 says:

    According to Samantha Baskind, Bristol’s photographs were published in LIFE magazine when they were “conductive to sales”(55). TIME needed a way to “nuance” the harsh truthful reality of Bristol’s pictures (57). TIME’s truth was described as truth with “relaxed and charming entertainment” (65). They used Bristol’s photographs when they created “charm” in their stories. In this way, LIFE told the truth that protected its readers, a difference from the harsh realism prevalent in Fortune magazine and government propaganda. Without Grapes of Wrath to give these real people in Bristol’s photograph a kind of character pseudonym, Bristol’s photographs were of the “gritty social realism” character (58). One the pervaded media in the 1930s and one that LIFE tried to avoid. It was too harsh and lacked the “charm” the magazine strived to accomplish. LIFE used Bristol’s photographs in combination with “essays that downplayed the misery” of the Dustbowl while “proffer(ing)” the real people in the photographs as Steinbeck’s characters, the Joads (58, 61). In this way, TIME takes Bristol’s photographs from the harsh realism, and puts them in a new context, to create “a clever human interest story.” Grapes of Wrath allowed the pictures in the photograph not to be seen as people, a neighbor or distant relative, but as characters in Steinbeck’s novel. I do not mean to imply that TIME coupling the people in the pictures with character names, was a statement of the book’s falsity. The pictures of the people were meant to show the truth in Steinbeck’s characters. However, because the people were also character’s it lessened the shock to the reader of TIME. Using Bristol’s pictures in conversation with Steinbeck’s novel, addresses the depression, but in an indirect and mild fashion.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      This is a good way to explain the conjunction between the pictures and the novel in the pages of Life, as perceived by the readership of the magazine.

  7. Bristol initially had his photographs rejected by LIFE magazine because editors thought they would lose sales if they published them. Then, LIFE had a turnaround and realized that “millions of people can be deeply interested in pictures of calm, daily life as in pictures of the accidental, the sudden, the explosive which makes the news” (20).

    When LIFE magazine debuted, America was in the throes of The Great Depression. Editors thought America had seen enough of heartache and misfortune, and sought to portray the truth of the time in “a manner that the country could handle” (14). Idyllic and calming pictures graced the pages of the magazine, despite being contrary to the actual conditions of the United States. Bristol said his proposed photographic essay would be “too much” for the audience of LIFE magazine (12).

    It wasn’t until the success of documentary-style photographic essays and novels such as The Grapes of Wrath that editors realized there was a market for such photographs as Bristol’s. Even so, LIFE portrayed the images of tragedy in “an unobtrusive fashion” so as not to depress readers (26). When they were finally published, Bristol’s photographs were used in the context of The Grapes of Wrath, to draw similarities between the contrived film and the actual images. They were used in a tame way that downplayed the misery of the individuals. Therefore Bristol’s photographs were never exhibited in the venue he would have imagined, because the audience only chose to see what they wanted to, even if it wasn’t the entire truth.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      I have a hard time understanding how presenting the pictures in this way necessarily tamed them. It might be interesting to try to delve deeper into that idea.

  8. According to Baskind, Bristol’s photographs were eventually published in Life as a soft yet truthful accompaniment to Grapes of Wrath. At first, Life had no desire to publish Bristol’s photographs, because earlier America was under a bombardment of news of the Great Depression, and such images would have been too real and depressing to the public. This was not Life’s goal, while the magazine supposedly wanted to tell the truth and accurately inform the public, it was more important to it to please its audience, which did not want to feel guilty facing tragic pictures they had no solutions for. At the time, there was also a plethora of propaganda and the government monitored what information would be released to the public, and Bristol’s photographs did not conform to the picture of America that they wanted to display or that America wanted to accept. However, when Grapes of Wrath was published, the photographs could be taken in conjecture with the story, thus they could be seen as fictionalized as well. Now when Life published Bristol’s photographs, they did so with captions underneath which referenced the fictional characters in Steinbeck’s work. This method softened the blow for Life’s audience, as it presented the issue with an impact, yet it could still be seen as largely a fictional work instead of a pure, harsh truth.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      But so many people take fiction to heart, and so many people read Steinbeck’s novel as true, I have a hard time understanding why conjunction with the novel would necessarily soften the blow of the photos.

  9. The photographs were initially rejected from LIFE’s magazine through the theory of photography as truth. For this same reason, the photographs were also published years later (55). The notion that photography is truth is seen periodically throughout the most basic understanding of photography. While what you see in a photograph may be the actual occurence, it leaves out the possibility for context or a back story. There is simple ambiguity that leaves no room for any interpretation but the spectators. This is not always the most prudent and controlled response to a photograph. Bristol had a difficult time publishing the photographs because many saw them as a statement of too much truth. In that they were too harsh, too telling, and too voyeuristic and indicative of the circumstances he was trying to express. Also, Bristol felt that it may have been for the best that these pictures were not initially published, because they would have taken individuals and made them a subject to a cruel and unusual fate of poverty and sympathy. It may have been too much to subject the subjects to. When Steinbeck began to get so much criticicism for his novel, Bristol and LIFE decided to air his pictures, in a pseudo-justification of the authenticity of “The Grapes of Wrath.” The showing of the pictures were more of a supporting argument to Steinbeck’s novel than a clear showing of truthfulness and artistry at work.

  10. shjones says:

    Originally, LIFE Magazine was not interested in publishing photographs of the Dust Bowl that bristol proposed taking. The company felt that it was not a smart financial move, and it wouldn’t bring in any capital benefit. Instead, inspired by You Have Seen Their Faces, Bristol turned to John Steinbeck to make a photobook with. The two traveled through California taking pictures and notes of the migrant workers. Both already had previous experiences. In the end, Steinbeck decided to publish a book alone, without pictures. The result was his novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. His novel, although highly controversial, was also a bestseller. The images created by Steinbeck’s writing became the standard in people’s imaginations for migrant workers. To profit off this success, LIFE decided to take Bristol up on his offer. His pictures now would be popular because people would flock to see them after they read “The Grapes of Wrath”. Bristol’s pictures lined up perfectly with Steinbeck’s novel, and even provided validation for the accuracy of the book.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      What about the specific article in which Bristol’s photos are used to validate Steinbeck’s novel? I find it interesting that they are too truthful on their own, but they are the ultimate arbiter of truth in the novel. Why would Life want to defend the truth behind the novel if it didn’t want to force its readership to confront the truth in the Bristol photographs themselves? What is it about their conjunction with a novel that changes the sense of truth, and its appeal to an audience?

  11. maxinesrich says:

    Bristol’s photographs have a fascinating history. From being rejected by LIFE, to being paired with Steinbeck and later rejected, leading him back to LIFE, Bristol had to find the opportune moment to achieve publication. Bristol’s photographs were not immediately published, and Bristol had to struggle to find a publisher. At that time, photographs were considered to be the ultimate truth, and thus these photographs must have been complete and true to life. Yet their shocking subjects were too real in a sense, they were too much for the public to handle; their story was too horrifying to be true in America. This is especially true for LIFE magazine, whose self-proclaimed values include finding the charm in the news in order to create a unique, relaxing experience for their readers. Yet after Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” reached its height of popularity, Bristol’s photographs found a new relevance. There was enormous criticism and debate surrounding “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Bristol’s photographs, being considered the absolute truth, seemed to be the only way to prove the fact behind the novel. Journalists began to take an interest in this debate, and thus Bristol’s photos were published, their indisputable truth forming support for Steinbeck’s shocking and upsetting claims about migrant farmers’ lives in the 1930’s.

  12. megmck12 says:

    LIFE magazine was steeped in the ideas of portraying news in an new, absorbing, exciting, and life like way. However, with this came the danger of real events being portrayed in an ordinary, “toned down” way: a way the fostered false security and hope. From this, it’s no small wonder that LIFE originally rejected Bristol’s photographs–that, and their seemingly low impact on sales. But in the midst of the controversy surrounding Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, Bristol’s photographs acquired a new appeal.

    Bristol states that his photographs were originally viewed as “too much”; strong, jarring photos of real people enduring real hardship. Not only did this connect with 1930’s America’s conception of news and truth, but it played on the perception of “The Grapes of Wrath” as fact. Americans were torn between desiring to know the effects of the Depression and being uncertain of how to react to them. The held much with cold hard truth, but suspected the news as being manipulative propaganda. 

    In the context of Bristol’s photos, the publishing of Steinback’s novel allowed his photography to support LIFE’s “picture and word editorial technique” and be supported by the controversy surrounding the novel.  The photos, to LIFE’s audience, seemed to prove the fact in “The Grapes of Wrath”, forcing them to immerse themselves in the effects of the Depression while experiencing those effects in the pictorial, entertaining, and absorbing way they we used to being provided by LIFE. 

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      This is an interesting observation — so the novelistic presentation of the subject matter was akin to Life’s mission of light entertainment, and in that way the photographs could contribute whereas, on their own, they aren’t entertaining enough. Do you think Life was reading the novel appropriately?

  13. Emily Schweich says:

    As photography took a primary role in telling news stories, the notion of photography as truth evolved greatly during the 1930s. “This ceaseless promotion of the camera as truth appears not only to be the reason that LIFE initially rejected Bristol’s migrant labor photos, but also why the magazine ultimately embraced Bristol’s images as well” (18).

    LIFE originally rejected Bristol’s request to write a migrant labor story, stating that it wouldn’t be conducive to sales. Bristol himself acknowledged that the pictures were perhaps too raw to be published in a magazine like LIFE. “They are kind of strong pictures of the actual people. You get an idea of, you know, what they’re like. They’re too much” (12). These achingly real photographs countered LIFE’s ideology of capitalizing on “charm” to provide readers with a “relaxed, seductive” slant on news. While Henry Luce, LIFE’s creator, did seek to depict truth, he preferred to provide readers a respite from an often-depressing reality, focusing on the positive.

    With the eventual publication of Grapes of Wrath, LIFE published Bristol’s photographs almost as “verification” that Steinbeck’s novel was truth, including captions that labeled the subjects as members of the Joad family. Now that the photographs could function as “clever human-interest portraits” instead of depictions of “gritty social realism,” LIFE could publish them in a way that avoided despair and didn’t alienate the readers it worked so hard to please. Ironically, it was Fortune magazine, which Steinbeck dismissed as “capitalistic” in his early days of working with Bristol, that presented Bristol’s photographs in the most honest way. Instead of publishing the photographs as “charming entertainment” or creating a false construct to go along with them, Fortune presented the photographs in a more objective light as accompaniment for an article about migrant workers (26).

  14. Horace Bristol’s photographs were eventually published by LIFE magazine because the magazine wanted a portrayal of the Depression that was not overly sensational yet qualifying as truthful. Only some of his photographs were published because LIFE did not want to overwhelm its readers with the harshness of the truth (51). At the same time, LIFE felt that the best and most truthful way to represent the Depression was through photography, which it felt its readers would qualify as the most truthful medium of documentation (54). This fell in line with growing suspicions amongst the public towards depictions of the Depression due to government suppression (49) and propagandistic advertising (50).

    Originally Bristol struggled to have his photographs published because LIFE found them too explicit and overwhelming in their depictions (49). Essentially, the magazine did not believe it could sell its product profitably with depictions of harsh reality in contrast to more visually appealing photographs (55).

    The Grapes of Wrath’s success opened opportunities for Bristol’s photographs to be published in conjunction with excerpts from Steinbeck’s novel. The use of a combined image and text narrative gained popularity at the time (54), and the prospect of matching what the public would consider as “truthful” images with Steinbeck’s work was very alluring to LIFE magazine (55). This was further aided by a large controversy concerning the validity of Steinbeck’s work (45). LIFE took advantage of this to publish photographs of real people, but in the context of an uplifting work of fiction, in order to portray the truth (55) and also maintain their optimistic message (51).

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      It’s funny that life would use the photos to prove the truth of a work of fiction, when they wouldn’t use the photos to demonstrate the truth of a social reality.

  15. esrayagoub says:

    Bristol initially planned on publishing his photos as a joint project with John Steinbeck. This plan ultimately fell through and Steinbeck published his novel independently. After The Grapes of Wrath gained popularity a selection of Bristol’s images were featured in LIFE magazine, and another was features when filming for the novel began. According to Samantha Baskind, “both LIFE articles emphasize that the photographs prove the facts of the book and the movie” (42). Despite the novel’s popularity portrayed in life, it still faced heavy criticism when it came to accuracy. In the thirties pictures were a close equivalent of fact. That is in part why LIFE became newly interested in Bristol’s work.

    Bristol had attempted to make his project a joint venture with Steinbeck because LIFE rejected his initial plan for a photo essay. They believed the story alone at that time would have been too hard hitting subject for a magazine like LIFE. Bristol had accompanied Steinbeck while he was working on The Grapes of Wrath and in doing so he captured the accuracy of the novel. It was ultimately the work of Bristol’s former project partner, the controversy that surrounded it, and the passage of time that made his photos desirable. The story, and Bristol images weren’t as much about the migrant workers as they were about the accuracy of Steinbeck novel.

  16. shulamitshroder says:

    The Grapes of Wrath depicts a farm family forced to flee their land and try to make their way in California. Originally, the author (John Steinbeck) and a photographer (Horace Bristol) were going to make a photo-book, like You Have Seen their Faces. But after traveling around migrant camps with Bristol, Steinbeck told him that he wanted to write a text-only novel. Bristol’s photographs have been mostly forgotten, while Steinbeck’s book is still famous. Bristol’s pictures did not entirely disappear, however. They ended up being published in LIFE because The Grapes of Wrath was a bestseller. Bristol’s photographs were used to show that Steinbeck was telling the truth about the hardships faced by migrant workers. The captions under them linked the people depicted within them with the fictional characters in the novel. LIFE did not at first want to publish Bristol’s photographs because they showed Americans living in terribly sad and brutal conditions. LIFE wanted to print pictures that showed happy Americans and unhappy foreigners because those pictures helped sell magazines. The magazine distanced itself from newspapers and more serious periodicals like Fortune by choosing to focus on the bright side of things in the US, because Americans wanted to pretend that all was indeed well – or at least, that it was much better than in Germany or China or some other far off country. Once The Grapes of Wrath was published, though, the public was curious about the life of migrant workers. Since Bristol was with Steinbeck when he was visiting their camps, it could be argued that his photos showed the inspiration for the novel. LIFE published Bristol’s photographs only in relation to Steinbeck’s book. Although Steinbeck backed away from his original deal with Bristol, Bristol still managed to capitalize on the popularity of Steinbeck’s writing.

  17. This article describes the connection between Bristol’s photographs and Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Bristol and Steinbeck originally planned to collaborate on a photographic essay, but when Steinbeck decided the story was too big to be expressed through a photo essay, they went their separate ways. Bristol tried to get his photographs published in LIFE, but they would not take them because it was “too much” for the American people (49). However, once The Grapes of Wrath became a bestseller, Bristol’s photographs were finally published in LIFE because they acted as truth to Steinbeck’s novel. The people Bristol photographed could be tied to names like Tom Joad and therefore they seemed more relatable. Once again, when the book was made into a film, more of Bristol’s photographs were published. Both The Grapes of Wrath and Bristol’s photographs became iconic images from the Dust Bowl, just like Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother.” The main purpose that Bristol’s photographs served was to illustrate the story told by Steinbeck and serve as truth for the claims he made. Once the novel became popular, LIFE seized the opportunity to capitalize on the trend.

  18. There were many obstacles that Bristol encountered when trying to publish his photographs in LIFE magazine. Initially, he was rejected to get his photos published in the novel Grapes of Wrath when John Steinbeck decided that his novel would be hindered with the photos in them and the novel would probably be more notable if there were no images (48). Bristol also has trouble because LIFE magazine did not think that the images that he provided would be profitable or generate interest from the public. In general, during the times of the 1930s, not only did the people not want to see disheartening images, neither did the federal government, “At times the Hoover administration believed that suppressing the entirety of the crisis from America’s citizens would prevent lagging spirits (49).” However, this proved to not be completely beneficial in that it made it so people did not belief the kind of distress and horror that they would read or see in the news. Even the texts that were being published to point out the “sour, cynical, disbelieving” public were dismissed with skepticism and denial. However, this cyclical chain of events changed when Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was published.

    This book received wide acclaim and sold two hundred thousand copies in the first two months of its release. It even got the attention of famous filmmakers who eventually created it into a motion picture movie (41). Although this novel received so much attention, there were still many voices that opposed this book, saying that the depiction of the people are not accurate and the book is completely fictional with no reference to actual events. Because of this highly controversial subject at the time, LIFE decided to live true to the purposes of the magazine, about how, “the world will be presented to them [the viewers] in a purely visual fashion,” and the belief of, “the photograph as truthful, factual, and a carrier of cold realism (54).” Thus, LIFE finally decided to use Bristol’s photos to show the truth to the American people and to put reliability behind Steinbeck’s novel, “The pictures on this page are not simply types which resemble those described in The Grapes of Wrath. They are the people of whom Author Steinbeck wrote (58).” The publication of this book and the time that it was written created the need for Bristol’s photos. The novel brought up the recognition of an even, and this certain time and state of mind brought up a rebuttal for this recognition, but the photos brought a truth to the stories. The photographs, in a way, settled the argument.

    • Sheila Jelen says:

      While you are right about most of what is argued in the essay, I don’t think you are right in your discussion of Bristol’s wanting to get his photos into the novel. I don’t think that was ever issue.

  19. Ross Fasman says:

    Originally, the overwhelming “truthfulness” of photography plagued LIFE’s magazine decision into publishing the Bristol photographs. Baskind provides that “Americans who simultaneously wanted the truth and craved an escape from reality. Understanding its readers’ conundrum, the newly founded LIFE magazine played off the perceived mimetic quality of the photograph to document the “truth” of the era in a manner that the country could handle.” Originally, however, it didn’t want to publish the cold, real truth because it wouldn’t be conducive to sales and Bristol had a diffuclt time with publication. America was “inundated” with propagandistic photography of the Depression and LIFE’s sales pitch would have seen exhaustive.

    In the end, however, “LIFE finally printed a careful selection of Bristol’s photographs
    at a time when journalism joined in the debate about the truthfulness of Steinbeck’s novel.” The photographs were published in Life to “emphasize that the photographs prove the facts of the book and the movie…(as) photography is the most objective and truthful of media, providing the necessary proof that Steinbeck’s book was an accurate account of migrant life.” (5)

    In other words, it was the interplay with textual evidence and photographic reinforcement that allowed for the LIFE story to propagate itself.

  20. Sheila Jelen says:

    This is a very evocative final sentence.

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