Per 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]
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