Life Magazine Digital Archive

Posted by Scott

c-5.jpegc-1.jpeg c-3.jpeg c.jpegLife Magazine and Google have partnered to make over 10 million photos from the Time/Life archive available online. The images are searchable and all available at pretty good resolutions. (Athough probably not quite big enough for print) You could have some fun lifting textures and elements for web stuff I’d bet, the quality is more than enough for the screen. What’s even crazier than scanning 10 million photos is that apparently 95% of the them have never been seen before. The few I posted above were just from a couple minutes of random searching, I can’t imagine what you could turn up with a little effort. Check it all out over at Google Images’ Life Archive page.

12 Comments Leave A Comment


Daniel Carvalho says:

November 21, 2008 at 4:41 am

This is very cool. Original vintage ;) Keen to play around with some of the photos.

Do you source photography sometimes? Like say in your new single cover, or do you always make sure you take the photos yourself?


Alex / HeadUp says:

November 21, 2008 at 9:34 am

I have always been in love with Life Magazine’s photography, the 20th century can be completely understood through these photographs. I’m lovin that last image with the sniper team.

Thanks a million (for 10 million) for posting this up!


fireman says:

November 21, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Just wondering, does the “copyright LIFE” next to each of the images on google mean anything? Is there a link on google that specifies the usage terms for this series of images – I really don’t want a cease and desist in the mailbox! Thanks.


Scott says:

November 21, 2008 at 6:15 pm

fireman….of course, these are all copyrighted images so you have to be careful about how you use them. I source a lot of the elements in my work from old magazines and such. I just make sure I am using a small, unidentifiable portion of the image, or changing it so much that it is no longer recognizable as the original. But that’s for my own personal art projects / posters. when working for clients, I clear everything I use, you really have to be careful in those situations. Of course, fair use is the law so if you’re just lifting textures or tracing silhouettes then it’s usually ok. but I’m no lawyer, this is just all guesswork and based on my experience over the years.

For example, if I took that picture of the earth up there and just slapped some text on it and called it an album cover, I’m getting sued (as long as it reaches enough people that someone from Life recognizes it that is). If I instead took the lens flare, masked out the rest, then overlayed that in a blending mode on top of a graphic…. probably going to get away with that no problem.


Scott says:

November 21, 2008 at 6:22 pm

it depends on the project. sometimes I get inspired by something I see so I use that. sometimes I just have an idea so I need to go out and get the picture myself. I like to use old pics sourced from magazines more though, since they are printed offset, when you blow them up they start to look very interesting. you don’t get that effect with digital photography.

the new single cover is comprised of 2 photos. one is very old, and is a very small portion of the original so it’s unrecognizable. more of a texture. the main silhouette is contemporary, it is by an Italian photographer who I worked with to get clearance for use. more info on all that will be posted once the artwork is released.


Daniel Carvalho says:

November 22, 2008 at 5:24 am

Thanks, appreciate the insight of how you work. Sometimes I do things and wonder if that’s how other people in the industry do them.

“if I took that picture of the earth up there and just slapped some text on it and called it an album cover”

Must say I found this humourous, I was just thinking it would make a hot album cover.


Sujan says:

November 22, 2008 at 7:33 pm


I would appreciate it if you could point me to the photo of the girl hugging her boyfriend…I tried searching the archives, but couldn’t find it under the most obvious keywords.
Thanks in advance…


Anonymous says:

November 23, 2010 at 7:43 pm

why why or you throwing bomb’s it’s you not north korea why you what the country you can have it i just want to get read of the border or you mad what are you trying to do attack on south korea…