2012 was not a kind year for photographers. It opened with the death of Eve Arnold, Magnum’s first woman photographer, whose work, as Robert Capa had remarked, was sandwiched between “Marlene Dietrich’s legs and the bitter lives of migratory potato pickers”. She captured secret worlds of women: private lives of the world’s most famous women, lesbian weddings, nunneries, reproductive clinics in South Africa, and harems in Dubai and the Arab Emirates in a major series on Muslim women.
Elsewhere, Magnum lost another of its great female photographers; Martine Franck was perhaps better remembered as the wife of the late Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose legacy she kept alive through retrospectives, books, and interviews. She herself was an accomplished photojournalist, working for Life, Vu, and other weeklies. All in all, 2012 was not a great year for female photographers. Fashion lost Lilian Bassman; post-modernism lost Jan Groover. Counterculture protests lost Bettye Lane.
Three giants of Indian photography passed away this year. Sunil Janah alerted the world to the Bengal famine in the 1940s with his photos, while Homai Vyarawalla, India’s first and the most famous female photojournalist, documented the throes of the subcontinent’s independence a few years later. On the other hand, Prabuddha Dasgupta symbolized the face of modern India with his fashion photography.
Other departed talents were prodigious too. Antony Barrington-Brown took the iconic pictures of Watson and Crick with their DNA double helix model. The Argentine photojournalist Horacio Coppola was best known for his photos that accompanied Borges’ autobiography. Photos Sergio Larrain took in Paris, which revealed scenes of a couple only upon processing, became the basis for Julio Cortázar’s story, “Las Babas del Diablo”, inspiration behind Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. Mary Beith snuck into a animal testing lab.
Harry W. Randall, Jr. and Erazm Ciołek, respectively the chief photographers of the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War and of the Solidarity movement in Poland, died in 2012. Elsewhere in Poland died Wilhelm Brasse, the POW who became the ‘Portraitist’ of Auschwitz, who took about 40,000 to 50,000 “identity pictures” there from 1940 until 1945.
As we mark a bloody war in Syria that saw the deaths of Marie Colvin and photojournalist Remi Ochlik, we remember the passing of three great photographers who saw the 60s unfold and then unravel. Stan Sterns took an iconic photo at John Kennedy’s funeral. Malcolm Browne saw a pivotal moment that same year a hemisphere away as a Buddhist monk immolated himself in Vietnam. AP’s famed Saigon team thinned out in 2012, with the deaths of Browne, the great Horst Faas, George Esper (correspondent), Roy Essoyan (writer), and finally its bureau chief Edwin Q. White in November.
There will be no more photos from Jim McCrary, who created over 300 album covers, including Tapestry, where barefoot Carole King posed with her cat; Ken Regan, the private photojournalist of rock ’n’ roll stars; Chris Marker, the French photographer better-known for La jetée; Alf Kumalo, a chronicler of South African apartheid; Jack E. Boucher, the Chief Photographer for the Historic American Buildings Survey; Sir Simon Marsden, the tireless lensman of allegedly haunted houses in Europe; and Robert R McElroy who documented the Happenings art movement in New York. They are all gone, as was Beverley Goodway, the grand old photographer behind Page 3s.
Also gone are Geoffrey Shakerley, Billie Love, Andrew MacNaughtan, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Masahisa Fukase, Leta Peer, Enzo Sellerio, Cris Alexander, Lee Balterman, Eric Watson, Neville Coleman, Charles G. Hall, Hans Arvid Hammarskiöld, Walt Zeboski, Frank Barsotti, Pedro E. Guerrero, Cornel Lucas, and Arnaud Maggs.
And finally, there were two standouts. Death came to Neil Armstrong, who took photographs that were literally out of this world; and to Lucky Diamond, the Maltese who holds the current Guinness Record for most photographed dog with celebrities. Together they told the stories large and little of photography.