“A Child is Born”: Much more than one of the 75 Best LIFE Magazine covers

By Dave Andrusko

In the era of instant communication—and virtually ceaseless communication—it’s easy to forget the power weekly magazines once held, specifically what ran on their front covers.

I stumbled across this from LIFE magazine, which, to be honest, I didn’t know was still being published. The magazine is about to celebrate its 75th anniversary.  The premiere issue was published November 23, 1936.

At  http://life.tumblr.com/post/12835412063/when-life-magazines-premiere-issue-hit-newsstands you’ll read

“As we are approaching the 75th anniversary of the magazine’s debut, LIFE presents, in chronological order, the 75 most moving, most striking, most beautiful LIFE covers of all time, as chosen by the site’s editors.”

If you scroll down to “April 30, 1965,” you’ll find this photo of an unborn baby with this description of what that issue held:

Sixteen photos excerpted from Swedish photojournalist Lennart Nilsson’s book “A Child Is Born” were published in the April 30, 1965, issue of LIFE — but perhaps none as breathtaking or memorable as this cover image. Every one of the 8 million copies of LIFE printed sold out with four days. 

I asked Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, National Right to Life’s Director of Education, to put the impact of Nilsson’s photos in context.

“Whether he meant it to or not, photographer Linnart Nilsson exploded the myth that the child in the womb was ‘nothing more than a bunch of cells’ or a ‘clump of tissue.’  People might have seen some poorly drawn medical illustrations or even read a description of the child’s developmental stages, but when Nilsson’s photographs were published in LIFE magazine, they saw for themselves the glorious humanity of the unborn child. 

“Nilsson’s photos captured not only the biological details, such as the faces and fingers and toes, but the personalities of children he photographed, the sense of safety, security, even the wonder as they explored their watery homes.   Their softness, their sweetness came through in the photographs, the welcoming warmth of their mother’s wombs.  In a way that no technology had done before, Nilsson’s photographs were able to move forward that moment when parents finally come face to face with the reality of their child.
–~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You can view 25 photos from “A Child is Born” at www.lennartnilsson.com/child_is_born.html.

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