Photography — 2011 in Review

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.

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

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Two Obituaries

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.