Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret


"Her artistic talents and dedication to cultural documentation allowed her to create truly unique statements about life in this state."
— Mary Bennett, 1996

Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret is a recognized Iowa photographer whose images are in many collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her photographs include studies of the roles of men and women and ethnic groups, including Norwegians, Swedes, Czechs, Amish, Dutch, Mesquakie Indians, Hispanic workers, and the Amana people. She also documented the black civil rights movement in Cedar Rapids during the 1960s, which was instrumental in the election of one of the first African Americans, Cecil Reed, to the Iowa House of Representatives. Born in 1929 in Iowa City, Liffring-Zug Bourret attended the University of Iowa, then worked as a writer/photographer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, 1948-51. In 1951 and 1952, she received national and international recognition for her photo documentary of the birth of her first son. Look magazine published the essay with Life using one photograph. She captured on film the variety and richness of Iowa life for The Iowan magazine from 1954 to 1985, and The Des Moines Sunday Register as a free-lancer from 1952 until 1969. She cofounded Penfield Press, publishing books of ethnic interest, in 1979, with her late husband John Zug, as well as authored several books about Grant Wood. Liffring-Zug Bourret was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.

Update: Liffring-Zug Bourret is a former board member of the Friends Development Council, University of Iowa Museum of Art. She is a contributor of over 500,000 negatives from the 1940s to 2007 to the archives of the State Historical Society of Iowa and of photographic prints to the Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art,and Kirkwood Community College. She has also contributed fine art and crafts to Iowa museums. As publisher of Penfield Books, first founded as Penfield Press in 1979, she has released over 106 books promoting understanding of ethnic culture primarily of northern and eastern European descent including historical books about the Amana Colonies of Iowa. Her photographs of Martin Luther King (1962) and the Divided Child (1958) (an African American preschooler with a white curtain dividing her face) continue to have media publication.