LIFE was an iconic weekly magazine that specialised in extraordinarily vivid photojournalism. Through its most dynamic decades - the 1940s, 50s and 60s - LIFE caught the spirit of America as it blossomed into a world superpower. No other magazine held the photograph in such high esteem.
In this film, leading British photographer Rankin celebrates the work of LIFE's legendary photographers. He begins with Alfred Eisenstaedt and Margaret Bourke-White, two of the magazine's founding four who set the tone for what was to come, often going to outrageous lengths to get the best picture - moving armies, naval fleets and occasionally the entire population of a small town. He travels across the USA to meet photographers Bill Eppridge, John Shearer, John Loengard, Burk Uzzle and Harry Benson, who between them have shot some of the biggest moments in American history: Vietnam, the assassination of Robert F Kennedy, and the Civil Rights struggle.
But LIFE wasn't just about the big, historical moments. Its commitment to small town life never wavered, and its photographers pioneered new forms of photojournalism: embedding with their subjects for weeks, capturing ordinary yet compelling aspects of everyday life, and presenting the work in a popular new form, the photo essay.
At its peak, this legendary magazine was read by more than half the American population every week, and its influence on those people was unparalleled. LIFE taught America how to be American.