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In our post on “Lobster, Lunch or Dinner“, we published a photograph from the 1939 special edition of “U.S. Camera” magazine, an exceedingly hard to find issue in good condition. The cover photo (below) was made on an assignment for Eastman Kodak by photographer David Fletcher and showed the much photographed Theme Center at the New York World’s Fair in 1939. It also set the modernist tone for this issue of the magazine.

us camera issue 5This particular number of the magazine (no. 5) was completely devoted to the New York’s World Fair and the black and white photographs are superb. This issue also has an essay on the plan for the architectural use of color throughout the fair.

US CAMERA SPREADThe format of the magazine is relatively new to American publications of the period and is an almost square format 11 3/4″W x 12 1/2″H. The official photography agency for the fair was the seminal Underwood & Underwood Agency, that started life as the foremost publisher of photographic stereo card views in the world in the Nineteenth Century and by the 1930’s had evolved in one of the fastest growing photo taking enterprises in America.

us camera issue 5 page2The lay out and photographic techniques used in this issue by Art Director Elmer Lasher are interesting, with an example below of photos bleeding off the page, as well as the diagonal shooting of the subject images to create a modern look to the page. Photographic contributions by Rolf Tietgens, Dimitri Kessel, Ben Schnall, Robert Damora and others assured the finest quality of photography available at the time.

Full size images on one page and a caption on the top left corner of a page, the consistent use of evenly spaced images, gave the entire issue an almost European documentary feel to it (shown below). With photo editors like Edward Steichen, Paul Outerbridge Jr. who were well acquainted with the latest developments in photography one would not expect anything less. The credo ” forties modern” applies to every commercial aspect of this enormous event in 1939 with many foreign countries participating in the Fair. It showed the best America had to offer in industrial design, planning for the future on a grand scale through futuristic architecture and that approach helped to create the media image of it being the most powerful Nation on earth at that time. Photographs like the ones in this issue helped establish the myth.

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