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Depression, WW II photos displayed in exhibit at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

“On Assignment: the Photojournalism of Horace Bristol” opens this week on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman.
BY ASHLEY GIBSON, For The Oklahoman Published: November 10, 2013

Some of the most popular works of late photographer Horace Bristol are nearly 80 years old, but his pictures of Depression-era Oklahoma migrants, World War II combat and postwar Japan still resonate with Americans today.

“We have a renewed sympathy for the hardships of the 1930s, because we have been reminded over the past couple of years how an economic issue can have such a pervasive impact on a society,” said Mark White, chief curator and interim director at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. “These photos might not have spoken to Americans the way they do today if we were in a more affluent decade.”

Bristol's historic photographs will be on display in a new exhibition titled “On Assignment: the Photojournalism of Horace Bristol” opening Saturday at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Museum officials also will host a public lecture at 6 p.m. Friday that will provide more information about Bristol and his work.

Bristol was an important photographer, yet he was not a household name, White said.

“He was not a photographer who sought attention or public recognition, nor did he ever see himself as a fine artist. In many ways, he saw himself as a bluecollar worker, who was an advocate for social change and awareness, and he wanted to help bring about that change and awareness through his work,” White said. “This exhibition captures one of the most important decades in Bristol's career, 1938-1948. Included in that span of time you have a number of national and international, significant events that Bristol captured for the press and institutional usage.”

The exhibit will cover Bristol's work from three eras: the Great Depression, World War II and postwar Japan.

During Bristol's career, he collaborated with famed American author John Steinbeck, who wrote the 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Grapes of Wrath,” the novel about migrant farmers from Oklahoma and their hardships during the Great Depression.

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“On Assignment: the Photojournalism of Horace Bristol” is on display through March 16. An additional gallery talk by Todd Stewart, photography associate professor and associate director of the University of Oklahoma School of Art and Art History, is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 3.

More information about the exhibition and programs is available on the museum's website at


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