Make Magazines, Not War

As devastatingly horrific as World War II was, quite a few handsome magazines were produced in warring nations. The Japanese, as it happens, were responsible for the most beautiful of all propaganda magazines during that period—and that is no exaggeration. If only it had served the cause of peace and not savagery.

FRONT was a large-format photo magazine, published in 1942 by the International Press Photography Association under the direction of the army General Staff. It was published in 15 languages, including English, for distribution by the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Like Russia’s famed USSR in Construction, FRONT was noteworthy for its grand photographic covers and photo-montage interior spreads. The photographers were leaders in Japan, including Ihei Kimura (who also served as editor) and Hiroshi Hamaya.

The focus was, of course, on military heroics against the enemy, but the pristine layout and tonal photography transcended the typical hardcore propaganda imagery so common during the war. FRONT lived up to its name; it was much more avant garde than rear garde. Here are three of its English-edition covers.

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  1. Thanks for posting Steve!
    The editorial and cover design of FRONT was by Hara Hiromu (1903–1986), one of Japan’s early modern graphic design pioneers (perhaps the first) who was inspired by the work and theories of Lissizky, Moholy-Nagy, Bayer and Tschichold.
    For additional info on Hara Hiromu and FRONT please see the recently published Hara Hiromu exhibition catalog (Hara Hiromu and The National Musuem of Modern Art, Tokyo: What One Discovers Through Design Work, 2012) – highly recommended.
    http://www.momat.go.jp/english/artmuseum/hara_hiromu/index.html
    http://www.dnp.co.jp/gallery/gallerytalk/ggg/gt181/gt181_e.html

  2. Umm… Which nation was it exactly whose prosecution of WWII “served the cause of peace and not savagery”? 
    As Robert McKee reminds us, no evil person thinks they’re evil. They all think they’re good and the other guy is evil.