Coster, Gordon

American (1903-1988)

Gordon Coster was something of a jack-of-all-trades, talented (and charmed) enough to continually re-invent himself. He began his training and employment in illustration, but quickly realized that the medium was being replaced by photography. He scrambled to acquire new skills and - as a 19-year-old – was soon exhibiting his work in prestigious salons in the US, Canada and Europe. Knowing that he needed to turn a profit, Coster moved to Chicago in 1930 and established himself as a commercial photographer, eventually landing Marshall Field’s as an anchor account.

This financial cushion allowed Coster to turn his camera toward the more humanistic pursuit of photojournalism. In the late 1930s, he was hired by Life magazine and captured the WWII home front: labor unions, anti-fascist and peace movements, women in factories and the like. Edward Steichen also enlisted Coster to help document the war for the navy and, in 1955, tapped Coster’s archive for images as part of “The Family of Man” exhibit. On and of throughout his life, Coster taught at the Chicago Institute of Design, where his students were often know for their initiative and resourcefulness in making a livelihood as a photographer.