Esther Bubley

Esther Bubley

Esther Bubley was born in Phillips, Wisconsin, in 1921. After attending Superior State Teachers College in Wisconsin (1937-38) she studied photography at Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1939). Bubley then moved to New York where she worked as a free-lance photographer for Vogue.

In 1940 Roy Stryker invited her to join the the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration. This small group of photographers, including Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, Jack Delano, John Vachon, Carl Mydans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn, were employed to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America.

Bubley's work involved photographing the bus system in the Deep South. This was followed by the Standard Oil project (1945-47). Bubley's photographs were featured in an exhibition, In and Out of Focus, created by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1948.

In the 1950s and 1960s Bubley worked as a photographer for the Ladies' Home Journal, Life Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Saturday Evening Post, McCall's and Good Housekeeping. Her work was also featured in The Family of Man exhibition in 1955. Bubley has also had solo exhibitions at the Limelight Gallery, New York (1956), Ledel Gallery, New York (1982) and Kathleen Ewing Gallery, Washington (1989). A joint exhibition with Marion Post Wolcott was held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989.

Esther Bubley died in 1998.

Primary Sources

(1) Ian Jeffrey, The Photography Book (1997)

Although waiting in New York's Greyhound Bus Terminal, the two men present themselves with impressive elegance - as you might expect of men conscious of a young woman with a camera. Despite the work of Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White, Bubley was really the first American documentarist to look at life in the USA quite deliberately from a woman's point of view - and also the first to present that life as thoroughly theatrical.