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John Swope (photographer)

John Swope
Swope in 1934
Born(1908-08-23)August 23, 1908
DiedMay 11, 1979(1979-05-11) (aged 70)
Known forPhotography
(m. 1943)
Children2, including Topo Swope

John Swope (August 23, 1908 – May 11, 1979) was a photographer for Life,[1][2] and a commercial pilot who trained United States Army Air Forces pilots during World War II.[2]


He was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1908.[3]

He attended Harvard University in 1930. There, he joined the theatrical group University Players, where Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Joshua Logan were also members.[4]

His interest in photography began when he brought a camera to a yacht race from Los Angeles to Hawaii in 1936.[3]

Together with Leland Hayward and John H. Connelly, he co-founded Southwest Airways (no connection to the present day Southwest Airlines), a company that developed the Thunderbird Fields, which trained thousands of military pilots during the Second World War.[2][5]

He was married to actress Dorothy McGuire in 1943 until his death on May 11, 1979.[citation needed] Together they had two children.


He started his career by documenting federal housing projects, a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Program.[6]

1936 — He worked as an assistant to Leland Heyward.[7]

1938 — He was commissioned to photograph the work of nurses in Harlem and the Lower East Side by Henry Street Settlement House.[3]

1939 — He was assigned by Harper's Bazaar in South America with Joshua Logan.[3]

1941 — He began training Aviation cadets in Thunderbird Airfield right after he joined the Army.[6]

1942 — He collaborated with John Steinbeck on an illustrated book, Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team, which documented the training of army cadets.[6]

1945 — He joined the Naval Reserve as a photographer. His first assignment, in June 1945, was to photograph an overseas military flight from Maryland to Paris.[8]

1946 — Began his freelancing career again after his discharge from the Navy. He produced a theatrical play at the La Jolla Playhouse.[6]

1975 — Photographed palaces of the maharajahs in India for the James Ivory book, Autobiography of a Princess[9]


John Swope broke the mold of Hollywood's glamour shots when he burst in the scene in 1936.[10] What makes his work unique is how he used available light, shot from unusual angles, and informal portraits. This might come from his influence of Mondrian's use of linear space.[11]


  • A Letter from Japan: The Photographs of John Swope - taken in August 1945 documents the devastation caused by World War II. This photographic essay was complemented by a 144-page letter to his wife Dorothy McGuire describing in detail his emotional experience when shooting these images.[6][12][13][14]
  • Swope's photography has been the subject of five solo exhibitions at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, California; "Trees" in 2006, "New York" in 2005, "Photographs" in 2003, "Camera over Hollywood" in 2001, and "A View from Above" in 1996.[15]


  • Camera over Hollywood: Photographs by John Swope, 1936-1938 (published in 1939)[6][9]


  1. ^ "John Swope at Craig Krull Gallery". Craig Krull Gallery. Retrieved November 17, 2010. Swope was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1908. ... died in Los Angeles in 1979.
  2. ^ a b c "Arizona Memory Project : Browse". Archived from the original on January 2, 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Swope, John. "John Swope at Craig Krull Gallery". Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  4. ^ S. Ballard (2010-04-11). "notredamephoto: John Swope". Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  5. ^ "Oldies and Oddities: Tinseltown's Training Base". Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved November 21, 2010. They enlisted John Swope, a commercial pilot and photographer who had once shared a bachelor pad with Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda and who would later collaborate with John Steinbeck on the book Bombs Away.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center". Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  7. ^ "Camera Over Hollywood: Photographs by John Swope, 1936-1938 — Presentation House Gallery". Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  8. ^ "Three American Photographers, Block Museum, Northwestern University". Archived from the original on April 21, 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "John Swope Exhibit Shows the True Face of Hollywood | Art Business News | Find Articles at BNET". Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  10. ^ "John Swope Exhibit Shows the True Face of Hollywood. (Brief Article)". November 1, 2000.[dead link]
  11. ^ "John Swope at Craig Krull Gallery". Retrieved February 28, 2011.
  12. ^ "Steidl". Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  13. ^ "A Letter from Japan - Exhibitions - Hammer Museum". Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  14. ^ "Sake-Drenched Postcards - John Swope: A Letter from Japan". Retrieved December 23, 2010.
  15. ^ "Past Exhibitions at Craig Krull Gallery".
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John Swope (photographer)
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