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Legendary civil rights photographer Steve Schapiro passes away at 87

Photo by Плотников Александр, used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0

Legendary photographer Steve Schapiro passed away in his home on Saturday night, at age 87, from pancreatic cancer. Shapiro is best known for capturing pivotal moments during the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. He also produced promotional materials for classic films including ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Taxi Driver.’

Born in 1934, Steve first picked up a Kodak 127 format film camera at the tender age of 9 and immediately began shooting images of his birthplace – New York City. Shapiro’s first big break came from convincing a Catholic magazine, Jubilee, to publish images and a story about the plight of migrant workers in Arkansas. He wasn’t compensated but The New York Times Magazine ran one of the images on their cover.

It was living with and being mentored by another legendary photojournalist, Eugene W. Smith, that inspired him to create images that were published in major publications including Time, Newsweek, LIFE, RollingStone, People and Vanity Fair.

‘I learnt a feeling for humanity from him (Smith) and tricks of the trade, such as often a picture works best if there are two points of interest in it. So, it‘s not just a portrait of someone but you see something else that really shows you more about them or interests you so your eye goes back and forth between the two. It becomes a more satisfying experience and you stay with the photograph longer,’ Schapiro told Amateur Photographer magazine in 2018.

Reading an essay that eventually morphed into The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin would inspire Schapiro most memorable work. Armed with Nikon Rangefinder cameras, he pitched an on-the-road photo essay with Baldwin to LIFE magazine. These travels introduced him to many of the key civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He captured the March on Washington in 1963, King and the aftermath of his assassination, plus Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968.

In the 1970s, Schapiro transitioned to the entertainment world. He shot stills, posters and advertising materials for classic films including ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ ‘Risky Business,’ ‘The Godfather,’ and ‘Taxi Driver.’ He also dabbled in music, shooting album covers for stars such as Barbara Streisand and David Bowie.

Books including ‘American Edge’ and ‘Schapiro’s Heroes’ profile many luminaries the photographer got the opportunity to capture including Muhammed Ali, Andy Warhol, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, Ray Charles and Truman Capote. The Metropolitan Museum’s 1969 exhibit ‘Harlem on My Mind’ featured his work and in 2017, he received the Lucie Award for Achievement in Photojournalism.

Schapiro leaves behind his wife of 39 years, Maura Smith, two sons, Theophilus Donoghue and Adam Schapiro, along with daughters Elle Harvey and Taylor Schapiro. Anyone wishing to honor his memory can donate to Chicago’s St. Sabina Church, where the late legend regularly attended services.

This article comes from DP Review and can be read on the original site.

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