Stephen Colbert and Paul Giamatti once explained Life magazine to a Twitter-fed audience this way: Giamatti said it was shiny and made of paper. Colbert said it was like an iPad that you could burn. Life magazine was famous for its provocative photographs, some of which are seen in the exhibit “Made for Magazines: Iconic 20th Century Photographs,” currently on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
“Made for Magazines” explores images in a historical and contemporary context. “[The exhibit talks] about how these images that were made for magazines would today be on the Internet,” says Anne Pappas, MFAH photography curator. “There’s a photograph of a family in Harlem, and [when it ran] it raised enough money to buy that family a home. We relate that to Kickstarter today. We talk about how you had to wait a week for the next Life magazine to come out, as opposed to Twitter’s instant output today.”
Several photos stand out for Pappas, including Herb Ritts’s shot of track and field star and Olympic gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee. “It’s just of her legs,” says Pappas, “which is literally what she ran on. They’re so in tune, they’re so forceful.” The image does not show Joyner-Kersee’s face, a point that Pappas thinks enhances the power of the photograph. “Photographers make choices, and that’s what we want people to think about, what makes this picture [powerful] and why do I respond to it,” she says.
1001 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77004
Region: Kirby-West U
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Through May 4. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit mfah.org. Free with regular paid admission.
Sundays, 12:15-7 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 9. Continues through May 10, 2014