Ladies Home Journal’s Undiscovered American Beauties Provide Potential Bounty to Photographers

I have stumbled upon a treasure from the library files.  It is a prospectus written by the esteemed photography editor John Morris [winner of the 2010 ICP Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement] to image makers.  It offers $2,000 to the photographer, and $500 to the model of the winning shot of an undiscovered American beauty.

The year is 1948.

My colleague Ed Earle, who loves to convert sums into nowadays dollars, tells me that $2,000 is the equivalent of about $18,000 today, and $500 is $4,500 today.  Sure, we were told in the 1990s that some supermodels would not deign to get out of bed for less than $10,000, but I would guess most good looking girls today would be grateful for $4,500.

As with really dense treasures, it surrenders further pertinent details.  The pencil note on the foot of the first page suggests that the recipient share it with fellow members of the Photo League, referred to, familiarly, as “P.L.”

What I love about the letter is the remarkable level of detail, and the decided contrast with what I remember most about his career.  John G. Morris was a legendary editor at Life magazine and Magnum, and most associated with Robert Capa’s D-Day images, and decades of world events, so seeking photogenic girls-next-door with the same level of dedication, provides endearing contrast to all that.

[Deirdre Donohue, Stephanie Shuman Librarian]

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