Crowing about photography

LIFE magazine, April 26, 1937.

LIFE cover from TIME.com website.

This is sort of an old article (September 10) from the TIME.com website, but it’s still worth noting.

LIFE magazine was a force in photojournalism for much of the 20th century. Launched in 1936, it set new standards for using photographs and created new expectations in the public’s mind for seeing people and events as opposed to reading about them.

The publication was also famous for that red rectangle with the word LIFE in white letters. That logo was featured prominently on the cover of every issue…. apparently except one.

The TIME article on its LIFE Behind the Picture blog notes that the April 26, 1937, issue featured a photograph of a White Leghorn rooster on the cover. The rooster’s comb appeared in the same area that the logo would. The publisher, Henry Luce, didn’t want the logo to cover the rooster’s comb and detract from the photograph, and he didn’t like the comb obscuring the logo. Solution? No logo! The word LIFE does appear in the lower left corner of the cover, but the logo that would be prominent on all the other covers doesn’t appear on this one. On the contents page the photo credit notes “LIFE’s title is not boldly superimposed on this week’s cover because that would have spoiled the composition of this picture.”

In our current publication climate logos regularly interact with cover photography, either over part of the photograph or partially covered by some element of the photograph. There are undoubtedly publications that do have minimal logos, but for the majority of magazines (or newspapers) these days, what would it take for an editor/publisher¬†to say, “This picture is too good. Let’s do something different with the logo.”?

I don’t know, but it would be interesting to find out. In the meantime, check out the LIFE rooster cover. (By the way, the photograph is by Torkel Korling, a photographer with the ¬†Black Star picture agency.)