Nehru announces Gandhi’s death

35 Copyright Henri-Cartier Bresson

1947 found Henri Cartier-Bresson in India to document her independence. As the result of several years’ close friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, his family and closest friends, Cartier-Bresson was easily granted a photo session with Gandhi (something not all photographers can hope for). As soon as Gandhi broke his last fast, Cartier-Bresson managed to photograph Gandhi. Among these photos, which he took for LIFE, was the last photo taken of Gandhi when he was alive.

Fifteen minutes after HCB took this picture and left Gandhi’s Brila House, he heard shouts that Gandhi had been assassinated. He ran back and took the pictures of Gandhi’s family at his deathbed. However, the most emotional picture of the night is yet to come—the above picture that carried with it the cries and wails of the entire subcontinent. That night, visibly shocked Prime Minister of India, Mr. Nehru would announce the death of Mahatma Gandhi to the crowd outside his home.

Cartier-Bresson vividly remembered how he came to possess this iconic image. There was an anguished mob outside the Brila House, he recounted, and he took that picture at ¼ s., at I.5, by holding his breath. It was an extremely challenging shot for the photographer who never used flash. The photo was an accurate reflection of the moment that could be called the Hindu Götterdämmerung. Nehru’s face appeared slightly blurred, the face of an English officer sitting next to him was half-lit, while ghastly lights beamed at the camera from various directions. It is as if Cartier-Bresson’s Leica had captured the great Gothic moment our limited human mind cannot fathom.

Johnson and Humphrey


In the photo taken by John Dominis for LIFE/Getty, the morning after Lyndon Johnson’s election victory in November 1964, he celebrated by outfitting the new Vice President, Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota, in western duds and putting him on a horse at the Texas ranch. Hubert did not look comfortable–Johnson considered his vice president as a ‘greenhorn’ and enjoyed placing him in uncomfortable position.

At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Johnson kept the three likely vice presidential candidates: Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd and Minnesota Senators Eugene McCarthy, and Hubert Humphrey. He kept his choice secret from three candidates as well as from the rest of the nation. Even before announcing Humphrey as his running-mate with much fanfare, he praised his choice’s qualifications for a considerable amount of time before announcing his name. The next day, Humphrey’s fiery acceptance speech overshadowed Johnson’s own acceptance address.

His vice-presidency, however, was less successful–he disagreed with many of LBJ’s policies, but he couldn’t publicly criticize Johnson. Johnson threatened Humphrey that if he publicly opposed his Administration’s Vietnam War policy, he would destroy Humphrey’s chances to become President by opposing his nomination at the next Democratic Convention. Many liberals and progressives felt let down by Humphrey, a sentiment reflected in a satirical song by Tom Lehrer entitled “Whatever Became of Hubert?” (“I wonder how many people here tonight remember Hubert Humphrey. He used to be a senator…”).

MacArthur Comes Ashore


General Douglas MacArthur and photographer Carl Mydans both experienced jarring twists of fate in World War II’s Pacific Theater before arriving at this moment. MacArthur was driven from the Philippines by the Japanese in March 1942, declaring emphatically, “I shall return.” Two months earlier, Mydans, covering the war for LIFE, had been taken prisoner in Manila; he was held for nearly two years before being repatriated in a POW exchange.

MacArthur made good on his pledge in October of ’44. Above photo, taken during American landings at Luzon-Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines, is invariably used to commemorate “the return.” Many insisted that the picture was staged–an allegation Mydans disputed through his life. He would point out that MacArthur was usually uncooperative with photographers and insist that the general only did the walk once.

The picture was not posed but it was actually taken three months later, at a different beach than that of the original landing side at Leyte. Mydans was on the landing craft with MacArthur, and he rushed ashore on the pontoons army engineers put out so that MacArthur would not get his feet wet. But then he saw MacArthur’s landing craft turn away parallel to the shore. Mydans ran along the sand until the craft headed inwards, and as he had expected: “I was standing in my dry shoes waiting.” His photograph showed MacArthur sloshing towards the camera in his open-necked uniform and signature dark glasses, accompanied by staff officers and helmeted troops.

See MacArthur’s various landings here.

Bergman in Exile


Swedish beauty Ingrid Bergman was one of the top stars of the 1940s (Casablanca, Gaslight, Notorious), but her career in the U.S. derailed in 1949 when she left her husband and daughter for the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. She was working with Rossellini for the film Stromboli when she became pregnant. It was a huge scandal in the United States. Bergman was denounced on the Senate floor by Edwin C. Johnson (D-Colorado), who referred to her as “a horrible example of womanhood and a powerful influence for evil.” In a floor vote that followed, she was declared persona non grata. The scandal forced Bergman to exile herself to Italy, leaving her husband, Dr. Petter Lindström, who eventually sued her for desertion and waged a custody battle for their daughter.

During Bergman’s anguished time in Italy, anger over her private life had continued unabated in the United States, with Ed Sullivan at one point infamously polling his TV show audience as to whether she should be permitted to appear on his show. Although the audience was mostly in favor, Ed declined to book her. Bergman could not work in an American film for seven years, though upon her return, in 1956, she won an Oscar for Anastasia. In 1972, Senator Charles H. Percy (R-Illinois) lodged a formal apology into the Congressional Record for the attack made on Bergman 22 years earlier by Senator Johnson.

LIFE magazine’s Gordon Parks was her close friend, and Bergman trusted him to the extent that she invited him to the 1949 shoot for Stromboli— directed by Rossellini, at the time she was perceived as the villain — where he made the above haunting portrait. Parks would later acknowledge that portraits of Bergman and Rossolini during their famous sojourn on the island of Stromboli were one of his most important photoshoots for Life.

Hindenberg Disaster


7:25 p.m. May 6th 1937. Lakehurst, N.J. It was a routine assignment. Assembled as part of a massive PR campaign by the Hindenburg’s parent company in Germany, twenty-two still and newsreel photographers were on hand for the landing of 803-feet dirigible Hindenburg, the largest aircraft ever built. However, this publicity backfired when the airship burst into flames and exploded.

The event was widely reported by film, photographic, and radio media. It was one of the biggest disasters covered by the nascent non-print media. Herbert Morrison’s recorded, on-the-scene, eyewitness radio report (Oh, the Humanity!) became a media catchphrase. However, his recording was not broadcast until the next day. Parts of his report were later dubbed onto the newsreel footage, giving a false impression to many modern viewers that the words and film were recorded together. The print media was not lacking either: the New York Times dedicated 3-pages (below) which included Sam Shere’s above photo. LIFE magazine dedicated a 4-page tribute.

Although many similar photos were taken of the disaster,  Sam Shere’s photo became known as “the most famous news photograph ever taken,” a description used by Beaumont Newhall in his The History of Photography. The book, one of the most significant photohistory books, has since become a classic photohistory textbook. Ironically, Shere was reluctant to take the assignment, which was to get shots of the celebrities leaving the airship. Shere recalled: “I had come to think of myself as a “hard news’ photographer, and sort of resented the assignment.” After waiting for over three hours in drizzling rain, Shere saw the explosion; he didn’t have time to put his camera to his eye–he shot the iconic image from the hip.

As with subsequent mass media events of the increasingly tech-savvy century, the Hindenburg disaster was culturally alluded to several times, the most obviously by the English rock band, Led Zeppelin. The group’s eponymous first album has a picture of the Hindenburg disaster on the front cover.


Other photographers who made iconic Hindenburg shots that day: Charles Hoff of the New York Daily News; Gus Pasquarella of the Philadelphia Bulletin; Bill Springfield of Acme-NEA; Jack Snyder of the Philadelphia Record; Murray Becker, of Associated Press. The World-Telegram carried twenty-one pictures of the flaming Hindenburg and its survivors. The New York Post ran the photographs over seven editions, the Daily Mirror, nine. The New York Sunday Mirror even ran full color shots in its 23 May issue, taken by Gerry Sheedy on 35 mm Kodachrome.

The Other Tiananmen


For everyone, the image of the lone citizen standing in front of the tank defines the word ‘Tiananmen’ so much so that it was one of the words heavily censored through Google China. The diminutive Unknown Rebel dominates the news cycle every Tiananmen massacre anniversary. With his single act of defiance, he not only showed his courage but came to represent the courage of all Chinese protestors; in short, he replaced the protest’s earlier symbol, the Goddess of Democracy herself.

Above picture was taken by Japanese photojournalist Imaeda Koichi, who reported that he saw no direct killing in the Tiananmen Square. He insisted–and other photojournalists concurred–that by the time the tank arrived and fired upon the tent side, there were only handful of students in the tent. His above picture clearly show the barren abandoned campsite. At daybreak around 5:00 am, the tanks drove towards the place the Goddess of Democracy once stood (it had disappeared by then), crushing everything in its path–tents, railing, boxes of provisions, bicycles.

Nearly all the published photos are of Beijing, despite the fact that large protests took place across China. The paucity of photos was partly be due to restrictions on the movement of foreign journalists at the time in China, and partly due to the lack of camera ownership at the time.

See other photos of the Tiananmen Affair, courtesy of Magnum/Slate here.

Old Prospector Peter Voiss


In the 1930s San Francisco, Peter Voiss, an old prospector was making money by giving children rides on his donkeys, peddling his own poetry and selling postcards of himself in his “forty-niner” get up. He also charged a small fee to have his picture–‘of a picturesquely gnarled, full-bearded gaffer’ as Time Magazine called it–taken.

On April 23, 1936, a San Jose dentist Jaspar Gattucio snapped Voiss and his burro-drawn cart beside the Monterey Highway near Morgan Hill. From the wagon jumped Peter Voiss, 74, to collect a 50¢ fee. Dentist Gattuccio refused to pay and ran away. Later he stopped his car again to wave at Voiss, who interpreted this wave as a taunt. As Gattucio got back in his car and drove away, Voiss drew out his gun and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced the dentistʼs rear window and lodged clean in the back of his head. The dentist was pronounced dead six hours later and Voiss was taken into custody. When he was booked, he mumbled something about people not paying him for taking his photograph.

He fretted about his donkeys, and asked who would feed them while he was in jail. The warden tricked Voiss into entering his cell by telling him that his donkeys were waiting for him there – even though the cell was located up a flight of stairs. Despite a psychiatrist declaring Voiss “hopelessly insane,” and despite his erratic behavior, Voiss was acquitted and set free. The jury believed that Voiss had only meant to threaten the dentist, when the gun accidentally went off.

In the above picture–the last Dr. Gattucio took–Voiss is shown leaping with rage as he runs toward the cameraman. Authorities developed the film and the photo appeared in the L.A. Times.

Three dead Americans lie on the beach at Buna


During World War II, most Americans followed the news of the war through three sources: radio broadcasts, newspapers (there were more than 11,000 in the country then) and newsreels that preceded the movies at their local theatres. These sources played a vital role in connecting the home front with the war front, and the government control of the news was comprehensive. All news about the war had to pass through the Office of War Information (OWI). A “Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press” was issued on Jan 15, 1942 giving strict instructions on proper handling of news.

The code was voluntarily adopted by all of the major news organizations and implemented by the more than 1,600 members of the press accredited by the armed forces during the war. The government also relied heavily on reporter’s patriotism, which ensured that in their dispatches from the front lines, they tended to accentuate the positive. The above photo, therefore, was unusual: it was the first time an image of dead American troops appeared in media during World War II without their bodies being draped, in coffins, or otherwise covered up.

The photo of three dead American soldiers lying in the sand on shoreline near half sunken landing craft on Buna Beach, Papua New Guinea was now considered a war classic. Taken by George Strock in February 1943, it was not published until its September 20th 1943 issue. In that September, this photo and other equally gruesome and graphic pictures of WWII were finally OK’d by the Office of War Information’s censors, in part because President Roosevelt feared that the American public might be growing complacent about the war and its horrific toll. Even than, in the picture, the Americans’ faces were not shown–a practice continued until Korean War  to preserve soldiers’ privacy in death.

At the time of the publication, these pictures shocked many readers. The Washington Post argued that the pictures “can help us to understand something of what has been sacrificed for the victories we have won.” Images of dead soldiers appeared regularly after that. Efforts were made to crop the photos or obscure the victims’ faces, name tags and unit insignia. The caption to Strock’s photo, “Three dead Americans lie on the beach at Buna,” told Life’s readers that they did not need to know the names of the dead in order to appreciate what they had done.


LIFE magazine felt compelled to ask in an adjacent full-page editorial, “Why print this picture, anyway, of three American boys dead upon an alien shore?” Among the reasons: “Words are never enough . . .

Dr. Kane’s self surgery


In the above unusual photo taken in 1932, the 70-year old Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane of Kane, Pennsylvania operated upon himself for inguinal hernia. When performing the complicated surgery Kane was very relaxed and even joking as he came within millimeters of important blood vessels. Because of the close proximity to the femoral artery it was a particularly delicate operation which Kane performed it in just under two hours.

Dr. Kane (1862 – 1933) was a pioneer in the medical profession and chief surgeon of New York City’s Kane Summit Hospital. Kane wanted to prove to the world that general anesthesia was often unnecessary for minor operations. He used himself for a test case and operated on himself removing his own appendix using only local anesthetic in 1921. Dr. Kane propped himself up on the operating table with a mirror over his abdomen and three other doctors in the operating room as backup. Kane made the large incision needed to remove the appendix and his assistants sutured him up. Dr. Kane chatted and laughed throughout the operation. This was before new techniques allowed doctors to make small ‘Band-Aid’-size incisions for appendix removal.

The Battle of the Overpass




May 27,1937. Richard T. Frankensteen, U.A.W. organizational director, with coat pulled over his head, was brutally beaten at the gate of the Ford River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. The clash came three months after the UAW achieved its first landmark victory at Ford, when they had forced the company to negotiate a policy toward organized labor by staging a lengthy sit-down strike at the Rouge complex. Succeded largely because of Michigan Governor Frank Murphy, who protected the strikers’ right to bargain collectively, the labor agreement did little to change the day-to-day life of Ford workers. Henry Ford remained a vehement enemy of organized labor, and he began to build an increasingly muscular force of Ford officials charged with the job of maintaining discipline in the workplace.

The May 27th incident followed an attempt of the United Auto Workers Union to distribute leaflets to the workers leaving the plant and marked the first outbreak of violence in which 16 were injured including four leafleteers (Walter Reuther, Bob Kanter, J.J. Kennedy, and Frankensteen). Beating of Frankensteen occurred around 2:00 pm when Reuther and Frankensteen were asked by a Detroit News photographer, James E. (Scotty) Kilpatrick, to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. The news photographers were the next target; many had their cameras, plates and holders broken, and others forced to flee beyond the city limits.

Kilpatrick was lucky. He hid the photographic plates under the back seat of his car, and surrendered useless plates he had on his front seat. The next day, news and photos of the brutal attack, the so-called ‘Battle of the Overpass’,  made headlines in newspapers across the country. All of America was witness to the primitive tactics with which Henry Ford subdued organized laborers. This publicity didn’t end Ford’s opposition to organized labor, but it made his eventual acquiescence inevitable. On the journalistic end, Kilpatrick’s photographs inspired the Pulitzer committee to institute a prize for photography.

Anton Cermak shot


February 15, 1933.

President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt had just returned from a fishing trip aboard Vincent Astor’s yacht Nourmahal to address a gathering in Miami’s Bayfront Park. Accompanied by Mayor R.B. Gautier, in the rear seat of a convertible, FDR made a short talk and had just finished shaking hands with Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak when an assassin fired upon the president.

Giuseppe Zangara was only five feet tall, and in order to see over other people, he stood up on a wobbly folding metal chair with a .32 caliber pistol he bought at a pawn shop. After the first shot, the people grabbed his arm, but he fired four more shots wildly. He missed Roosevelt, but five other people were hit, including Cermak.

Enroute to Jackson Memorial Hospital, fatally-wounded Cermak allegedly told FDR, “I’m glad it was me and not you, Mr. President”, words now inscribed on a plaque in Bayfront Park; their authenticity was dubious, for Cermak fiercely fought FDR’s nomination at the Democratic convention in Chicago months earlier, and the relationship between two men were frosty. Cermak died of peritonitis on March 6th, two days after Roosevelt’s inauguration.

It was often noted that Cermak, not Roosevelt, had been the intended target, for he posed a threat to Al Capone and the organized crime. Before he was put to death, Zangara himself told the police that he hated rich and powerful people, not Roosevelt personally.

In the above picture, W.W. Wood and L.L. Lee assist Cernak to Roosevelt’s car. The photo was taken by the only photographer present on the scene, International News Photos’ larger-than-life Sammy Schulman.

Chunnel Treaty Ratified


Socialist French President François Mitterrand and conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Together, they were the titans of European and world politics in the 80s. Together, they harkened back to the era when the fate of the world was decided by the statesmen of Europe in her chancelleries. … and they didn’t get along well.

Thatcher was taught as a child by her grocer father that the French were both Roman Catholic and Communist and riddled with sexual disease; Mitterand said that Margaret Thatcher had ‘the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe’. Thatcher’s finest European hour came in 1984 when she marched into Fontainebleau to demand the ‘British rebate’–66% rebate from the French and the Germans who wanted to give only 50%.

However, these two statesmen accomplished one monumental project together: the Chunnel. Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project to bridge the English channel, and in 1981, Thatcher and Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project. Four submissions were shortlisted and in 1986, the Eurotunnel bid was selected. Foreign Affairs Ministers of both countries signed the Franco-British Treaty in Canterbury, which was ratified in 1987 by Thatcher and Mitterrand (above) inside the famed Chapter House, in Canterbury Cathedral.

The tunnel was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and Mitterrand in a ceremony held in Calais on 6 May 1994.