Shutterstock nabs LIFE magazine photo archive from Getty

Martin Luther King leading a civil rights march
(Image credit: Shutterstock/LIFE Picture Collection )

Published regularly from 1883 to 2000, LIFE magazine was a general interest news magazine that was dominated by its world-class photography. 

From theaters of war to Hollywood red carpets, LIFE published what became some of the most famous images of all time, from some of the century's greatest photojournalists, including Dorothea Lange, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, Andreas Feininger, John Dominis, Nina Leen, and Gjon Mili.

Its vast archive now includes more than 800,000 photos and magazine covers that chronicle the 20th century, from Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk to Martin Luther King marching for equality.

(Image credit: Shutterstock/LIFE Picture Collection )
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Many of these images remain in big demand today, for books, magazines, documentaries, TV period dramas, historical movies and more. So custody of this vast collection is a big deal in terms of both industry influence and raw profitability.

It was only last February that Getty Images announced (opens in new tab) it had added 75,000 images from The LIFE Picture Collection to, and planned to add a further 400,000 Images between 2020 and 2025.

Well, we're not sure what happened there, but that's clearly no longer the case. Because its rival Shutterstock has just announced an editorial partnership with media company Meredith Corporation to exclusively represent The LIFE Picture Collection (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Shutterstock/LIFE Picture Collection )
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The collection will form part of Shutterstock Editorial’s archive, The Vault (opens in new tab), which makes over 60 million vintage photos and video clips available for commercial license worldwide. And the company is promising to make new, never-before available images from the LIFE archive available for license. 

However, if you don't want to pay to license pictures from the LIFE archive, and just want to browse them for inspiration, you can still do that via Google's Arts and Culture Library (opens in new tab) which contains over four million images from the magazine's archives.

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq (opens in new tab), and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, T3, Heat, Company and Bella.