RIP: Look Magazine Photographer Charlotte Brooks

By Richard Horgan Comment

CharlotteBrooksPer an obituary in the New York Times, Charlotte Brooks was born in 1918 as Charlotte Finkelstein, but because of pervasive anti-Semitism, later changed her last name to bolster her chances of professional success.

From 1951 until 1971, as Look magazine competed weekly with Life, Brooks was one of just a few female members of Look‘s full-time photographer ranks. From humble assignment beginnings, she would go on to cover Duke Ellington, Ed Sullivan, Fats Domino and Richard Nixon. From a Library of Congress essay about Brooks’ career:

She accepted a job in the promotions unit of the Advertising Department, making pictures that regular staff photographers balked at doing. Her tasks included the “sociable cheese” series – photographing supermarket displays when a cheese manufacturing company was a major Look advertiser. Another lowly assignment had her in smoke-filled rooms at professional meetings, photographing visitors’ heads in cardboard cutouts of celebrities.

Beverly W. Brannan, the Library of Congress curator who interviewed Brooks in 1998 for the above-referenced essay, tells the Times‘ Paul Vitello that Brooks had “the mind of a sociologist” and that her work recorded “the changing fabric of America in the ’50s and ’60s.” Brooks lived with a female partner from 1941 until that woman’s death in 2009. She was 95. RIP.

[Photo courtesy: Patricia Carbine/Library of Congress]