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Assassination of Malcolm X.

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Life delivered a clear summary of the events in New York: “Most shocking of all to the residents of Harlem was the fact that Malcolm X had been killed not by “Whitey” but by members of his own race. The country’s Negro community was suddenly faced with the possibility of a fratricidal war”.

On the very next page was an essay in words and photos by Gordon Parks — credited as “a close observer of the career of Malcolm X” – who gained unprecedented access to the black Muslim community for a photo-essay two years prior. Back then, Malcolm X was a preacher with a black-nationalist religious movement Nation of Islam, which he had a falling out in 1964. From his former movement, he received numerous death threats and finally an assassin on February 21, 1965. The assassin, one Thomas Hagan, was paroled only in 2010, serving 44 years of a life imprisonment.

Last month, a link with that frantic America which prospered Malcolm X and his firebrand philosophies was lost when Yuri Kochiyama died, aged 93. Ms Kochiyama, a long-time political activist, famously appeared in the photo above, cradling the dying Malcolm X’s head. The photo was taken by Earl Grant, a close associate of the slain preacher.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Lives and Lenses They Touched

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We live in the age of compulsive looking; photographs are everywhere, some iconic, many others mundane. Whether they be tweeted from idyllic beaches, from totalitarian pariah-states or from the great unknown, they are so effortlessly delivered onto our papers, tablets, and phones that sometimes it is easy to forget and worthwhile to reflect that there are men and women behind those pictures who dared and died for their art. Just after this post has gone to (word)press, I learnt John Dominis, who photographed the famous black-power salute, has died. 

Many greats from the Golden and Silver Age of Photojournalism had been thinning out for years. This year, we lost a few more: Bill Eppridge, the great Life photographer best remembered for his photos of slain RFK and of New York drug addicts; Wayne F. Miller, who covered bombed-out Japan and black America; Hector Oaxaca Acosta, the great Mexican photographer; Fred O. Waters, who covered the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and Enrique Meneses, who introduced the world to Fidel, Che, and their revolution.

We bid adieu to several great portraitists too: Willy Rizzo and Bert Stern, two of the last men to photograph Marilyn Monroe; Lee Tanner, a bard of jazz age; Lewis Morley, the man who immortalized the Profumo Scandal; Jack Mitchell, whose Nov 1980 photo of John and Yoko would have been on their Christmas card, had John Lennon not been shot a week later; and Ozzie Sweet, whose celebrity portraits featured on over 1800 magazine covers.

Many of departing giants are pioneering women photographers. Editta Sherman, better known as the “Duchess of Carnegie Hall,” chronicled that bohemian enclave and celebrities who passed through it from the 1940s until 2010. Deborah Turbeville used her fashion photography to comment on fashion’s distorting hold on women, by manipulating her negatives with scratches, dusts, tears, and distress. Abigail Heyman, one of the first female members of Magnum, was known for her book Growing Up Female which had a self-portrait of her abortion. Equally personal was a photo Helen Brush Jenkins took of her son just moments after she had given birth to him. Sarah Charlesworth of The Pictures Generation was an ardent photographer and commentator of newspaper front-pages.

Also gone are photographers whose names aren’t household but whose works are: Harry Goodwin photographed every single act that entered the Top 30 of the UK Singles Chart (bar two) from 1964-1973. George Hunter was a wildlife photographer who images graced the Canadian five, ten, fifty dollar bills. Officer Alan Wood supplied the flag for the iconic Iwo Jima photograph.

Haitian Thony Belizaire covered the most important stories of his country for three decades. Denis Brodeur was one of hockey’s finest photographers. Robert E. Gilka had a formidable tenure as director of photography for National Geographic for 27 years, overseeing the magazine’s evolution into a photographic powerhouse. Allan Arbus (better known as psychiatrist Maj. Sidney Freedman on M*A*S*H) was a close collaborator of his wife, Diane. Balthazar Korab and Keld Helmer-Petersen brought lyrical modernism to architecture photography.

In 2014, there would be no photos courtesy of Benoit Gysembergh, Piero Cristaldi, Allan Sekula, Burhan Doğançay, Kate Barry, Monte Fresco, David Vestal, Saul Leiter, Ron Davies, Robert Häusser, Robert Trotter, Robert R. Taylor, Gunnar Høst Sjøwall, Leif Preus, Jagdish Mali, Deng Wei, Gabriele Basilico, and many others and we will be poorer for it.

And lastly, there were those who fell in combat; 2013 was the second deadliest year in living memory for reporters. Over a dozen photographers were killed in action, some chasing pop stars, others chasing bigger stores. Olivier Voisin died of shrapnel wounds in Syria. Two amateurs killed in Syria — Abu Shuja, 26, and Molhelm Barakat, 17 or 19 — sums up a war that devours its own youth. More blood will be spilt in 2014; the war in Syria will rage on for its fourth year. Already two new sectarian and tribal conflicts are unfolding in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. They will a claim a few more fearless reporters and photographers — and countless more innocent civilians.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

December 31, 2013 at 2:37 am

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Needle Park | Bill Eppridge

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Tributes last week remembered him as the photographer who took the last photos of Robert F. Kennedy as the senator lay dying on the floor of a Californian hotel. But Bill Eppridge, who died on October 3rd, was a photographic icon long before that fateful night in 1968. Throughout the 60s, Eppridge documented for Life magazine the fast-changing America — he was there when the Beatles first came to New York; he photographed Barbara Streisand washing her clothes in a tub; he saw an emotional fraught funeral for a Civil Rights leader murdered by the Klan.

But for this author at least his most powerful work was the photoessay on heroin addicts in New York City which appeared in Life magazine in February 1965. Eppridge and James Mills, associate editor at Life who wrote the accompanying article, spent months trailing and living with two addicts who described themselves as “animals in a world no one knows.” That touching photo essay, gritty and raw well before the words became overused in photographic context, won the 1964 Headliner Award. That story later inspired the motion picture, ‘Panic in Needle Park’ starring Al Pacino and Kitty Winn as John and Karen, “two lives lost to heroin,” in LIFE’s powerful words.  [Further photos on Life website].


Here is Eppridge, remembering the assignment:

The writer, Jim Mills, and I started doing research on the heroin culture that had crossed over from subcultures and was quite seriously affecting the white middle classes. We spent three months learning everything we could about it. It took us that long to find a couple, after contacting every agency we could. When we found them, we had to persuade them to do it for free; we couldn’t have paid them – it would just support their habit. I went and lived with them for three months, and tried to be invisible. I’ve been skinny and gaunt all my life, so I fitted in with that society. It got to the point when they just ignored me and didn’t care whether I was there or not. As a matter of fact, I got stopped by the cops more than they did. They wanted to know where I got the cameras.

Often we would lead a story with a question rather than a statement. There is a statement here, but it asks a question… ‘We are animals in a world no one knows’: What is the world? How are the people like animals, they look like a normal couple, crossing the street? It brings the reader in. In the next spread you see who they are: heroin addicts. We did not show the needle very often; we had to be aware of our readership, so we didn’t want to show a lot of gore.

Karen came from a very fine family, on Long Island, but to make money to support her habit, she wasa prostitute. She was a beautiful woman. The police referred to her as the actress. She could change her looks at a whim, but when she did too many drugs, she started to look bad. John came from a very fine family in New Jersey, but to make money, he stole, boosted from cabs – he was a petty thief. Karen found that she couldn’t support her habit anymore, so she checked herself into a hospital, and was able to cut back to a habit that was affordable. I don’t think that’s possible today. I went in with them and photographed things as they happened. None of this was ever set up, I just lived with them and I waited until things happened.

They were on the street looking for a dealer; I looked over their shoulder and there was a gentleman standing there who looked like he didn’t belong. It was a cop, an undercover narc. He and his buddy came along, they spotted Karen and John were addicts, and they proceeded to search them. John was put in jail. I went to the judge and asked if we could photograph him in jail. I don’t know if it’s possible to have that access today. So, John’s in jail and Karen’s got to go and get drugs. She goes to see a dealer.

I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for her to come down, and I got a phone call. It was Karen, she said, “You’d better come up here, we got a problem”. Her dealer had overdosed. The guy could have died. It was a big dilemma; should I call the police or should I photograph it? I asked Karen how she felt about it and she said she could bring him round. So I took her word for it and didn’t call 911. And she brought him around. I constantly faced situations that bordered on illegal. It was hard having to make these kinds of decisions, but I think I made the right ones most of the time.

One of the things we highlighted was that this was not a physical addiction as much as a psychological problem. We also said that it was difficult, if not perhaps impossible, to totally deal with this problem. Those addicts still exist in one form or another.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 10, 2013 at 6:46 am

Neil Armstrong (1930 – 2012)

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Neil Armstrong, a modern explorer and (more importantly for us at IP) the first photographer on the Moon, is dead, aged 82. 

As the primary photographer of the first successful manned lunar mission, Neil Armstrong appeared very infrequently in the photos he took on the Moon [1]. Yet, he was everywhere on the Sea of Tranquility during that short 2 hour 36 minutes sojourn; a bootprint here, a reflection there, and his larger-than-life shadow intimately looming behind the viewer in many photos.

Two men were equipped with four special Hasselblad 70mm cameras, two 16mm data acquisition cameras and one 35mm close-up stereoscopic camera. Altogether, they took 232 color and 107 black and white photographs on the surface of the moon. The cameras were left on the Moon to make room for lunar samples. The Hasselblads were fitted with a reseau plate — a piece of engraved glass between the lens and the film that add cross-hatches to the photos — in order to help NASA analyze the films later by creating a grid. In that event, many of the frames remained in NASA archives, until a project to digitize them was completed in 2004.

As for Neil Armstrong, I will send him off by paraphrasing Richard Nixon/William Safire:

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood. Neil Armstrong was one such man.

In his exploration, he stirred the people of the world to feel as one, and bound more tightly the brotherhood of man.

He will be mourned by his family and friends; he will be mourned by his nation; he will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send one of her sons into the unknown.


[1] Hopefully, I won’t die of heart attack in next couple of days as I fume over news agencies mislabeling Buzz Aldrin as Neil Armstrong in those lunar photos. 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Martine Franck (1938 – 2012)

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Martine Franck, Magnum photographer and the second wife of the late Henri Cartier-Bresson, is dead, aged 74. 

In Contact Theory, Ms Franck remembers being en scene to take this memorable image and how she chose this particular frame:

This picture was taken during the summer of 1976. I had just been given a grant by the Fondation Nationale de la Photographie …. to photograph the French on holiday. I was on my way to photograph a pop and rock festival at Le Castellet and decided to stop by and see my friend the architect Alain Capeilleres. I knew that Alain had just completed the swimming pool, he had talked about its conception the previous year and I was really excited to see it. He greeted me by saying that an Italian photographer had just come to take photographs for an architectural review and that I should go down to the pool and have a swim.

I saw a couple of people doing exercises and an empty hammock and and then all of a sudden a young boy got into the hammock, the first thing I noticed was the shadow and I ran. It was all over so quickly. I remember trying to find the best angle and being bothered by a towel on the left of the hammock and a bathing suit on the right, then Alain’s wife Lucie arrived in her sun hat, said hello to the young boy. A few seconds later another boy climbed into the hammock. I changed angles but the picture was gone. I had Tri X in my camera and I distinctly remember being concerned by the glare of the August midday sun on the white tilings. I had closed down to f.16 and was shooting at a 1000th of a second but I still knew I was going to be over exposed, however most important I was convinced I had an image.

The ultimate choice was easy. Frame 18a was discarded because of the towel on the left, the figures in the background were confused and I had framed too close to the shadow of the hammock. Frame 16a was a possibility but I would have had to crop the bathing suit on the right which I preferred not to do and the man doing push ups in the background was in a less interesting position. The image that had the greatest intensity and concision was to my mind frame 17a.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

August 17, 2012 at 10:43 am

Smoking Beagles

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It was not her coinage but Mary Beith, who died last month, provided an memorable photo behind the phrase, “Smoking Beagles”.  

In 1970, Dr. Oscar Auerbach revealed that he had trained 86 beagles to smoke and 20 of them developed cancers. It was an experiment that proved for the first time the link between large animals exposed to cigarette smoke and cancer; it caught the tobacco industry unaware and opened the floodgates as both sides frantically rushed to prove or disprove harmful effects of cigarettes via a frenzy of animal testing.

It was amidst this controversy that Mary Beith went to work for Imperial Chemical Industries in the summer of 1974, but she was different from other workers. She had been engaged by The Sunday People in Manchester to work undercover at various animal research laboratories. She chose ICI’s Macclesfield labs for the simple reason that it was close to her home.

She could not produce her insurance cards (which would betray her journalistic background) so she pretended they had been mislaid. It was just perhaps the trusting nature of those days, but the company gave her three days to find them or face dismissal. Inside, she saw beagles forced inhale as many as 30 cigarettes in a day to test ‘safe’ non-nicotine cigarettes, called New Smoking Material.

A darkroom was set up in a van parked near the lab and Beith was given a tiny camera, which she concealed in her bra. But when she took the film back, staff laughed at her efforts, one telling her: “The next time you take pics of those beagles, Mary, please be sure to take your finger off the lens!”

The next day, she smuggled in a larger camera and took the photo above. The paper sat on the story for several months until publishing it on 26th January 1975 on the frontpage. It coincided with Richard Ryder’s powerful book against animal testing, Victims of Science. These incidents provoked strong and violent backlashes from animal rights activists, and with the imprisonment of two such figures from the Animal Liberation Front, a new chapter in animal rights law would soon open.

As for Mary Beith, she won an award as campaigning journalist of that year; ironically for the reporter best remembered for an anti-tobacco story, she was a lifelong smoker and died last month after a long battle with an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

Stan Stearns (1935 – 2012)

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Stan Stearns, who took the definitive photograph at John F. Kennedy’s funeral, has died, aged 76.

Many photographers were in front of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington on that sombre day, 25th of November 1963, cordoned off from the cathedral and the grief-stricken Kennedys, and many captured the emotive portraits of a family that had captivated the nation’s imagination for the previous four years. But the single most famous image of that poignant occasion — that of John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s casket on his very third birthday — was taken by Stan Stearns for United Press International.

Throughout the 1990s and in the 2000s, before internet made such claims easier to verify, another White House photographer, Joe O’Donnell claimed that he took the photo, a claim that was only disapproved after O’Donnell died in 2007. Back then, Stearns recalled how he came to take the photo:

It was a “world beater” for UPI. I was chosen to walk with Jackie and the world leaders from the White House to St. Matthew’s for the JFK service. When we got there I had to go behind the ropes with the other 70-odd photographers. All squeezed in an area for 30. Wow! UPI photographer Frank Cancellare squeezed me in next to him…. I had the longest lens, a 200mm. … I just watched Jackie. She bent down and whispered in [John-John’s] ear. His hand came up to a salute. Click! One exposure on a roll of 36 exposures.

As the caisson was rolling out to Arlington Cemetery I asked every photographer I could if they had the salute. Duh! Nobody saw it. They were concentrating on Jackie and the caisson. At this point I made a decision to walk the film into the bureau. I knew we had photographers along the way and at least four at the cemetery. They could do without me.

When I walked in the office George Gaylin [Washington Newspictures Manager] almost had a heart attack. I have never seen a man that mad. He turned red then white. Yelling and screaming that I did not go to Arlington. I kept telling him I had the picture of the funeral. He was yelling that he had rolls and rolls of film from ump-teen photographers covering the funeral. While Harold Blumenfeld [Executive Editor for News Pictures] and Ted Majeski [Managing Editor for News Pictures] were trying to calm him down, Frank Tremaine [Vice President, General Manager for News Pictures] grabbed me by the collar and said: “You better have the picture of the funeral or you’re fired.”

Knowing it was going to be a big enlargement, and knowing my job was on the line, I went into the darkroom with fine grain developer to develop the film. Unheard of at UPI. It took 17 min. I could hear Gaylin pacing outside the door muttering. When the negative was washed and dried I went to Gaylin’s desk. He looked at it and yelled! “He does have the picture of the funeral.” He quickly showed it to Ted Majeski and Harry Blumenfield on his way to have it enlarged and printed. The rest is history….

When the photo was transmitted the credit was UPI/ by Stan Stearns. Back then that was almost unheard of. Reporters got a byline, photographers got zip. The photo was used worldwide. Full page in some newspapers and magazines. A few with credit to UPI/Stan Stearns. Life [magazine] used it with no credit. I called the Life picture editor about the credit. He said would correct it in the future. He did. Well, in 1999 when JFK, Jr. died, he either had moved on or no one looked at the credit or they got it direct from Corbis. The credit was Corbis-Bettman on the cover of Life and Time.

By this time Mr. Stearns had moved on too. He quit UPI in 1970 and had been shooting weddings and portraits since.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm

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Lillian Bassman (1917 – 2012)

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Lillian Bassman, a forgotten doyenne of ethereal black-and-white fashion photography of the 60s, has died, aged 94.

In 1969, when Lillian Bassman decided to give up fashion photography, out of frustration both with the profession and also with herself, she took a familiar road oft-trod by many other world-weary artists: she destroyed most of her work, while storing many more away. Not until the early 1990s were those negatives rediscovered, reappreciated, and republished.

By this time, fashion photography was virtually unrecognizable from the one practiced by Ms. Bassman. Indeed, even in her heyday, Ms. Bassman already seemed like a photographer from another age — that of de Meyers, Munkacsis, and Steichens. Her ethereal black-and-white photographs, where fashion photography was elevated into a fine art with dark strokes and sharp angles, reveals Ms. Bassman’s lifelong fascination with angular artists ranging from Martha Graham and El Greco.

Originally a student of fabric design, and of Ms. Graham, Ms. Bassman took an unconventional route to fashion photography. She was initially an art director at Harper’s Bazaar, where she worked under the great Alexey Brodovitch, and where she was responsible for promoting careers of future photographic stars such as Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, and Louis Faurer. During her time at the magazine, she developed images for another grand name of fashion photography, George Hoyningen-Huene.

Her first photos — those of a wedding taken in Avedon’s studio — appeared in Junior Bazaar on the magazine’s last issue in May 1948. From then on, her life was that of fashion shoots, lingerie advertisement and svelte muses. When an ad agency demanded that the faces of the models be not shown, Bassman pioneered a genre that would be a reverie about the secret lives of women, as The Guardian put it. Alas, she never let men intrude that inner sanctum, sending her male assistants to coffeebreaks, as she captured the private worlds of such memorable faces of the 50s and 60s such as Barbara Mullen, Dovima, Suzy Parker, and Lisa Fonssagrives.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm

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Antony Barrington-Brown (1927-2012)

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Antony Barrington-Brown, who captured the first pictures of Watson and Crick with their original model of the DNA double helix, has died. 

Watson and Crick, who would come to disagree about pretty much everything concerning their discovery as depicted in Watson’s grandiose bestseller, The Double Helix, also could not agree on exactly when a picture featured in Watson’s book was taken. That picture, of course, was the above photo of two young scientists with their original model.

Watson said the photo was taken in May 1953, shortly after the announcement of their discovery in Nature. Crick recalled that they made the large scale model for the Cavendish Laboratory’s open house in July of that year. But they do not dispute that the photo was taken by another Cambridge student, Antony Barrington-Brown, who recalled:

An undergraduate friend of mine aspiring to be a journalist sought out stories on his own account. One day he gave me a tip-off that someone at the Cavendish Laboratory had made an important discovery, so could I take a picture to go with his story which he wanted to offer to Time magazine? So it was that I set off on my bicycle towing a two-wheeled trolley which carried my tripod and lights. I dragged the trolley up several flights of stairs and knocked at the door of one of dozens of similar rooms where research students worked.

I was affably greeted by a couple of chaps lounging at a desk by the window, drinking coffee. “What’s all this about?” I asked. With an airy wave of the hand one of them, Crick I think, said “we’ve got this model” indicating an array of retort stands holding thin brass rods and balls. Although supposedly a chemist myself it meant absolutely nothing to me and fortunately they did not expose my ignorance by attempting to explain it in terms I might just have comprehended. Anyway, I had only come to get a picture so I set up my lights and camera and said “you’d better stand by it and look portentous” which they lamentably failed to do, treating my efforts as a bit of a joke. I took four frames of them with the model and then three or four back with their coffee.

My ‘snaps’ came out well enough and my friend fired them with his story off to Time, but they never used it and sent me half a guinea (52p) for my pains. Several historians have spent a lot of effort trying to establish when the pictures were first published, but I have never known.”

It is believed that the photos remained unpublished for at least 10 years. Even when Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962, there was no sign of them. But all that changed with the publication of The Double Helix in 1968. Suddenly, Barrington-Brown’s photos was published in many magazines. In the 1970s, they were used to reconstruct the original DNA model which had fallen apart years earlier. For the 40th anniversary of the discovery, the photo was restaged with Watson and Crick in the same poses.

Only in the 1990s that the photographer fully began to realise just how much he was losing in royalties and a deal was struck with the distributors. In a final irony, not only did the photos which Barrington-Brown never considered his best made him more money than all the rest of his pictures put together, but Time magazine also had to pay considerably more for the photos than when they were first offered.

See Science Photo Library for the bigger versions of Barrington-Brown’s photos:

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 13, 2012 at 11:16 am

Photography — 2011 in Review

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Iconic Photos bid fond farewells to those we lost in 2011.

The big photography news of the year was deaths of Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros during a mortar attack in Misrata, but among the Arab Spring’s other unfortunate victims were a few photographers: Lucas Dolega, who died from injuries sustained on day of Ben Ali’s departure from Tunisia; Ali Hassan al-Jaber, the Qatari photojournalist who had the dubious honor of being the first foreign journalist to be killed during the Libyan war, and Anton Hammerl, who was abducted and executed by pro-Qaddafi forces.

But those who want some reminding that the world has already been an inhospitable place to journalists and photographers need only to look at the lives of those old masters who died this year. As Rashid Talukder was documenting the birthpangs of Bangladesh, the retreating Pakistani army was massacred thousands of his compatriots. Guy Crowder, that acclaimed chronicler of black LA for five decades, and Shel Hershorn, who captured iconic images of the civil rights movement and retired traumatized after photographing a fatally wounded Lee Harvey Oswald, both lived and knew that era of inequality and segregation.

The Golden Age of black-and-white photography once again flashed in front of our eyes with the depatures of many master lensmen of that era. There was Leo Friedman, who captured many of the iconic images of the golden age of Broadway. There was T. Lux Feininger, the younger brother of the great Andreas Feininger, who documented the artistic avant-garde in interbellum Germany. There was Richard Steinheimer, known as Ansel Adams of railroad photography.

And then there was Goksin Sipahioglu, the Turkish photographer who covered the Cuban missile crisis, the Prague Spring and the Munich Olympics attacks, and who more famously founded the renowned Paris-based photo agency Sipa. Most singularly, Miroslav Tichy, the Czech voyeur who died this year, took surreptitious pictures of women in his hometown of Kyjov, using homemade cameras constructed of cardboard tubes, tin cans and other at-hand materials.

On popculture side, two great music photographers who were known for their bold album covers died: Barry Feinstein, whose close partnership with Bob Dylan produced the singer’s most iconic photos and Robert Whitaker, who shot The Beatles’ butcher album cover. Gunther Sachs, bon vivant, playboy, and photographer, committed suicide.

Also dimmed are lens and flashes of Ken Russell, Deano Risley, Gautam Rajadhyaksha, Jerome Liebling, Lázaro Blanco, Milton Rogovin, Brian Lanker, Pete Carmichael, Steve Gladstone, M. Y. Ghorpade, Heiko Wittenborn and Franke Keating. Michael Abramson, who took photographs of patrons at nightclubs on the south side of Chicago during the mid-seventies and LeRoy Grannis, the godfather of surfphotography, are also no more.


(To be concluded tomorrow, other photography stories of 2011 and my picking of the Best Photojournalism Apps). 


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Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

December 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Two Obituaries

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Last few weeks saw the deaths of two people who were recently featured in Iconic Photos, first a photographer and second a general who made an iconic image possible. 

Died on October 25th was Rashid Talukder, the first Bangladeshi to win Pioneer Photographer Award, aged 72. His photos of the Bangladesh Liberation war in 1971 are considered to be one of the most important photoessays of the century, and his photo of a bodiless head, featured here on IP just two months ago, was a haunting testament to the trying toll of that war.

Another of his famous photos was featured above, when Bangladesh’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to his homeland after being released from jail in Pakistan. The photo, taken at historic speech on March 7, 1971, was later selected by the Encyclopaedia on Southeast Asia as one of the seminal moments of Bengal history.

From one successful war of independence to another less successful one: that in Biafra. In 1967, the Igbo — a Christian people in the oil-rich south east part of Nigeria — unilaterally declared their independence from Nigeria. Leading them quixotically was Col. Emeka Ojukwu, who died this week at the age of 78.

The Biafran struggle, for all its lofty goals, was a conflict which should have lasted only weeks, given the overwhelming superiority of the Nigerian federal army and the fact that international governments — seeing the rebellion as a first major challenge to post-colonial borders throughout Africa — weighed in heavily against the rebels. That it lasted for two and a half years was largely due to Ojukwu’s single-mindedness.

Before the Biafrans would capitulate, the Nigerian blockade of Biafra led to a famine and the conflict became imprinted on the international consciousness and conscience, thanks to a handful of British television reports and photographers. By October 1968 several thousand Biafrans, many of them children, were reported to be dying every day, and Don McCullin documented an extreme case of this in an iconic photo featured on this blog before.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

November 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Barry Feinstein (1931-2011)

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Barry Feinstein, the crafter of iconic pop culture images in the 1960s, is dead, aged 80.

The serendipitous meeting that transformed Barry Feinstein’s career took place in the early 1960s at the office of a longtime friend. That friend, Albert Grossman was then the manager of Bob Dylan, and thus began Mr. Feinstein’s close and enduring association with the legendary singer. Just before Dylan achieved his greatest fame, the duo travelled across America in a Rolls-Royce Grossman had bought in California and needed it driven east. Later, Feinstein would accompany Dylan on the European portion of a 1966 world tour and the 1974 Dylan and the Band tour.

It was during the former tour that he took the photo above; the iconic photo, taken in London in 1966, shows the singer in the back of a limousine smoking a cigarette and gazing straight ahead through dark sunglasses, seemingly oblivious to the imploring fans and the intrusive flashbulbs pressed against the window. In other unforgettable images from that tour, the singer was shown huddled in a seat in an otherwise empty Royal Albert Hall, playing with children in Liverpool and standing on a ferry dock in Australia, a photo later used as the cover for Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home.

“Just in their stark atmosphere, I liked the angles Barry used,” Dylan noted, no doubt thinking about the foreboding photo taken from below that graced the cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” — a portrait that recalled an earlier era of dustbowl hobo troubadours.

Barry Feinstein shot more than 500 album covers, and three established him as one of rock’s premier chroniclers. On the cover of Janis Joplin’s posthumous and final album was Feinstein’s photo of the troubled singer, taken the day before she died. For the Rolling Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, he used the image of a dirty toilet in a graffiti covered bathroom taken at a bathroom at a Porsche repair shop in Los Angeles. The distributors believed it was too explicit for release and replaced it with a sparse white cover. And for “All Things Must Pass,” his first album after the breakup of the Beatles, George Harrison portentously posed for Feinstein amidst a pile of four toppled, garden gnomes. Mr. Feinstein recalled that for this album, he photographed George Harrison for days outside the singer’s home at Friar Park:

“Then someone called and told [Harrison] that the gnomes that were stolen from Friar Park in about 1871 could be bought back. They asked him if he wanted to buy them back. He said, ‘Sure.’ They brought them back and laid them on the lawn. We went out and looked at them. I said, ‘There’s the cover.’ We didn’t move a thing. In about two minutes, we had the cover. It was spontaneous.”

Most of his best work was shot in black-and-white, using high contrast film and no flash; he preferred natural light, just like that other giant of American photography, Robert Frank, to whom he was oft-compared to. He had no formal photography training and began his career as a photographer for Columbia Pictures, taking memorable images of Steve McQueen on set of his most famous film, Bullitt. He captured a heartbroken Marlene Dietrich at Gary Cooper’s funeral and a feisty Marlon Brando at a civil rights march facing counterdemonstrators taunting him with racist signs. He was called to Marilyn Monore’s home after she had been found dead; among the shots he took was one of the bottle of pills on her bedside table, “a chilling image of the reality behind the glittering facade of her celebrity” The Times commented.

And fittingly for someone, who more than any one else, has captured those realities, angst and hippiness of that 60s generation, Mr. Feinstein died last week at his longtime abode in Woodstock. He was 80.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

October 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm


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