March 1986
David Markus
Art Director: Howard Klein

Selecting the year's best magazine photographs, unlike, say, picking the year's top 40 hit records, is not a process to be influenced by media polls, sales sheets, or any other semi‑scientific data. Rather, picking the best pages is a quick, incisive, highly subjective process that is reduced to how well a photograph communicates the editorial idea it was created to convey. Simple enough as far as criteria go, but a daunting task when you consider just how many fine magazine photographs there are to choose from.

More than 10,000 magazine titles went to press in 1985. Of those, we were able to view only a small fraction, and even then our preliminary selection quickly rose to well over 100 images. At a time when photojournalism continues its resurgence, and editorial portraiture and fashion photography are recapturing the wit, elegance, and sophistication of the resplendent days of the forties and fifties, it really couldn't, it shouldn't be any other way.

Still, the pictures that appear on the next 12 pages, which aptly capture the confidence and cautious optimism of 1985, are much more than a testament to the good health of magazines. They are impressive evidence of the kind of photographic talent that is the bedrock of the magazine industry.

We salute the photographers, photo editors, and art directors whose vision, enthusiasm, and intelligence made these pictures and the year 1985 such an auspicious one for photography and magazines. What's more, we hope that you will share some of the inspiration and delight we experienced in selecting the photographs.
‑David Markus




The Ethiopian famine and the world's belated response to it was the story of 1984. People everywhere vowed that it should not be forgotten. In 1985 the editors of Life kept the faith and sent photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark to the starving land. Amid the continued suffering, Mark discovered a few wisps of hope, including this young mother, who in an eerily silent delivery gave birth to her fifth child, a healthy girl.