Browse Life Magazine Archive Online For Free

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LIFE magazineThanks to collaboration between LIFE and Google you can browse the Life magazine archives online, for free.

Life magazine started as a weekly picture magazine in New York City, New York in 1936 and was instrumental in the emerging field of photojournalism. Now every issue of Life Magazine until the end of 1972 is available on Google Books, Google Arts and Culture, and a searchable database of tags.

LIFE magazine on Google Books has every issue of Life magazine archived (complete with ads). You can search for a topic (suggestions are listed at the bottom of the page), browse by year or peruse every issue. Each issue has list of linked contents and a tag cloud under the contents to make finding and reading items easier.
Users can browse, search and view photos of Life magazine's people and events. Images are free to share, print and post for personal use.

The LIFE Photo Collection at Google Arts and Culture contains 4,403,372 images that are sorted into collections and can be organized by popularity or time, with a view all option. Using the time option allows you to select a year to browse. Collections are categorized by various labels, including the name of the photographer who took a given image or by name (Robert F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev), geographical location (London, Boston, Cuba) or topics such as the Fog, Cold War, Boat, Tree, Mammal and so on. Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be a way to search the whole collection - you can search in each collection but not the whole collection.
Every photo is helpfully tagged with some or all of these descriptors:
title, date, location, physical dimensions, subject keywords, publisher, usage rights, provider, photographer, original ID, credits, and copyright.
Most of the images can be used for personal non-commercial use only, but not all have permissions listed. There isn't a download or save feature for the images, but a taking a screen shot works well.

LIFE Tags is best explained by Google: "LIFE Tags organizes over 4 million images from the LIFE magazine archives into an interactive encyclopedia using machine learning. Published weekly between 1936 and 1972 and monthly from 1978 to 2000, LIFE magazine was the most popular photojournalism magazine in the United States.
With machine learning, we classified millions of images automatically into a catalogue format based on thousands of labels.
You can easily navigate the LIFE magazine photo archive.
Each image has multiple labels linked to the elements that are recognized. Click to view the full-size image and the dotted lines will show you where the relevant elements are located.
All labels have been automatically linked with their WIKIPEDIA definition to provide additional context".

Have fun browsing.


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Comments

I wondered the same thing, since LIFE was being published later than that. I didn't find an answer to that during my research putting the article together.

OTOH, I apparently didn't thoroughly read the Wikipedia entry, because that's when they stopped publishing weekly issues:
"Industry figures showed that some 96 percent of Life circulation went to mail subscribers, with only 4 percent coming from the more profitable newsstand sales. Gary Valk was publisher when the magazine laid off hundreds of staff. The weekly Life magazine published its last issue on December 29, 1972."

Life (magazine) - Wikipedia

Definitely a collection worth exploring as Life magazine provided so many images that have become iconic over time. Wonder why they decided on 1972 as the cutoff date.