Burt Glinn took many notable pictures in his life—he is the right man at the right place for Magnum, a photo agency in which he was one of the first Americans (along with Eve Arnold and Dennis Stock in 1951) and which he would later served as president. At a New Year’s party in 1958, Glinn was notified that Fidel Castro had taken over Cuba. By dawn the next day he was covering the revolution in Cuba.
It seems ironic that the picture for which he is best remembered for today was the result of his tardiness. When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited Washington D.C. in 1959, the lines for photographer accreditation were long and Glinn missed the front-row. Arriving late and breathless, Burt Glinn was standing behind the premier in other photographers’ line of fire. The photographers frantically motioned him to move aside and security guards tried to move him to the side. Within this frenetic time-window, Glinn took two shots, of which the above with Lincoln’s colossal statue in semi-focus, was the most famous.
Glinn remembers: “ I was late and I couldn’t get to where everybody else was, in front of Khrushchev, so I came running up and I was in the back of him. And I looked up and there it was. I got two shots of that and then it disintegrated. If I’d been on time I would have gotten a very ordinary picture of Khrushchev and Henry Cabot Lodge looking at this statue of Lincoln but you couldn’t see the statue. The most important thing that a photographer like me can have is luck, you know. People think I planned that. They think I said “Nick, can you move a little to the left?”