FRIDAY SURPRISE: Brian Lanker, 1947-2011.
Friday, March 18, 2011 Filed in: Friday Surprise!, Things I like, History
Brian Lanker, Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer, died last week at only 63 years of age. He lived here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, in the college town of Eugene.
Brian started out at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where in 1973 he shot a surprisingly controversial essay on childbirth. At that time there were almost no published pictures of a child actually being born, which might seem odd today. This was 1973, however, when a father's presence in the actual delivery room was still a rare occurrence. It was a time when mothers went in by themselves, and a nurse or doctor would walk into the waiting room to announce "Mr. Smith, you're the father of a beautiful little girl!"
That essay - featuring the woman who would end up becoming Brian's wife - netted him a Pulitzer Prize and catapulted him into the 'big leagues.'
After earning his Pulitzer Brian was hired at the Eugene Register-Guard as their Director of Graphics. His tenure changed the face of photojournalism across the country, affecting the ways in which much larger newspapers approached the use of visual information. What your paper looks like today can be traced directly back to the work that Lanker did in what many would think to be a ‘backwater’ of journalistic ability. He also mentored younger photographers, and there are a number of good photojournalists working today who got their start in his department.
Of course his tenure at the paper didn't stop his photography. He continued to do assignments for magazines, corporate advertising, and along the way published several books of his work. Brian was versatile enough to jump from shooting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (two years in a row) to doing “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America” with equally superb results. Very few photojournalists have that kind of ability (though they all think they do!), but Lanker did. He did it all, and did it well.
You can read more about his incredible legacy at the New York Times Lens Blog (which includes a great retrospective of his work), an interesting personal viewpoint from his lawyer published in the Eugene Register-Guard, and see a small sampling of his work at his own website, brianlanker.com.
-=[ Grant ]=-