Horace Bristol

Dates1908 - 1997

Horace Bristol and his photographs were nearly forgotten to history until one day in 1985, when his son asked if he had read John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath. The question prompted Bristol to open a number of musty footlockers whose contents had been stowed away for decades. Inside were photographs that he had made half a century earlier while traveling through California's Central Valley with Steinbeck.

In 1937 Bristol became one of the first staff photographers for LIFE magazine. That winter, he and John Steinbeck traveled through California, interviewing and making photographs of migrants living in labor camps for a collaborative, book length project. Steinbeck later withdrew from their project, telling Bristol that he planned to write a novel. After Viking Press published The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, Bristol's photographs of California workers appeared in LIFE.

During World War II, Bristol was one of an elite team of naval photographers headed by Edward Steichen; after the war, Bristol went to Tokyo, Japan, and established the East-West Photo Agency. He and his family remained in Japan until the 1960s, after which they moved first to Mexico, then back to Southern California, where Bristol had spent much of his youth.

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