Horace Bristol

(Whittier, California, 1908 - 1997, Ojai, California)
Horace Bristol is best known for his photographs of California migrant workers and scenes of post-war Japan. He studied at the Art Center of Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco in 1933, renting a space near Ansel Adams’ studio. Adams introduced Bristol to the members of Group f/64, a coalition of photographers whose styles featured sharp focus and careful framing, including Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham. In 1937, Bristol began contributing to Life magazine and was eventually hired on staff. He and novelist John Steinbeck agreed to collaborate on a book about migrant workers in California’s Central Valley, and spent the winter of 1937 traveling to labor camps. Steinbeck dropped out of the project to finish his novel Grapes of Wrath, and Bristol’s photographs of migrant workers were used to help cast and costume the 1940 movie. During World War II, Bristol documented the invasions of North African, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, working under the direction of Edward Steichen. Following the war Bristol settled in Japan, photographing scenes of destruction and founding the East-West Photo Agency to sell photographs of Southeast Asia. He lived in Tokyo until his wife’s death in 1956, when in a state of grief he burned many of his photographs and negatives, packed the surviving works, and stored them for 30 years, until after he returned to the United States, remarried and started a family. In 1996 he published the book Horace Bristol: An American View. Bristol’s works are in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
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