In the world of professional photography, most of the artistry is credited to the photographer directly. But the impact of photography, as well as the preservation of photographs from the past, is often entirely the result of the unique artistry of an editor. It is often the photo editor who determines whether images – of day-to-day matters, of great achievements, from difficult situations (such as war zones), from controversial figures, about controversial topics, using new and experimental techniques and more – are ever brought to public awareness. It is not only that a keen sensibility for beauty and truth is required, but also an understanding of history, of the power of images to change opinion and evoke personal engagement. From her position as a pioneering woman in the dual worlds of magazine publishing and professional photography, Carlisle was uniquely able to bring these together in her work.
Carol C. Carlisle (1924-2011) epitomized the artistry of the editor during her nearly a 35-year career as Managing Editor of Popular Photography magazine, where she was celebrated for her keen eye and ruthless sense of perfection. It was her reputation as an insightful and meticulous editor that brought both her, and the magazine, such an outstanding reputation. She was also acclaimed for her work as a photographer in her own right, with her images published many times in the magazine and on the cover.
What the photography world did not know about Carol during her lifetime, however, was that she was also an avid collector of almost anything that delighted her eye. She saw beauty and artistic significance where others did not. In that spirit, she ‘rescued’ images that were submitted to the magazine, were not selected for use, were impractical to return, unclaimed by the photographers, and were surely headed for destruction. She amassed more than 1200 such prized prints, including those shown here Each represents a rare piece and specific moment in time that, if not for her artist’s and conservationist’s eye, would have been lost forever. The images embody the spirit of the woman whose ‘waste not, want not’ approach to life and impressive aesthetic vision led her to save these prints from oblivion.
Carol dedicated her life to educating her readers about photography as an art, as a skill and as a record of affairs of life. She also made the people she worked with a high priority, always reaching out to make a difference, and she gave much to her community as well. For many years, she served with Volunteer Service Photographers, a non-profit organization that was set up to teach photography in hospitals, youth groups, and senior citizen centers for rehabilitation, career development or just for fun. She devoted every other waking minute to her children.