Issue #143  4/21/2008
Photographer Burt Glinn Dies

Photographer Burt Glinn died April 9th in Southampton, NY of kidney failure and pneumonia. He was 82. Glinn was one of the first Americans to join Magnum. He became a member of the agency in 1951 and later served as its president twice, in the early 1970s and again in the late 1980s.

In 1959, late to a photo shoot, Glinn took his best-known photograph, an offbeat one of Nikita S. Khrushchev, which showed only the back of his bald head as he gazed up at the Lincoln Memorial. Glinn had been blocked from a front view by the pack of photographers, but turned this problem into a powerful image.

Glinn worked for several magazines, particularly Holiday, which devoted several complete issues to his work. His photo essay on the South Seas for the magazine won the 1960 Mathew Brady Magazine Photographer of the Year award from the University of Missouri and Encyclopedia Britannica. He traveled to Japan for Holiday in 1961, and then, two years later, went to the Soviet Union to photograph aspects of daily life seldom seen in the West. Pictures from those assignments were collected in two books published by "A Portrait of All the Russia's" (1967) and "A Portrait of Japan" (1968).

Born Burton Samuel Glinn in Pittsburgh on July 23, 1925, he went on to Harvard in 1943, but left after a semester after he was drafted into the Army. He served in the artillery in Germany, and then returned to Harvard to study history and literature, graduating in 1949.

He was mostly self-taught as a photographer. His first work in the field was as a photo assistant at Life magazine. In addition to doing news and documentary work, he also produced memorable photographs of Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and other celebrities.

He was also a successful commercial photographer. His corporate clients included Pepsico, General Motors and Revlon. He did advertising photography for IBM, TWA and Seagram, among others, and won the award for the best print ad of 1972 from the Art Directors Club of New York for his work for Foster-Grant sunglasses.

His most recent book, "Havana: The Revolutionary Moment," was published in 2002. It includes his famous 1959 photographs of Fidel Castro, along with new pictures he took in Cuba on the 40th anniversary of the takeover.

His work is the subject of a current exhibition by the Seattle Art Museum.

In addition to his wife, who is known professionally as Elena Prohaska, he is survived by his son, Sam of Manhattan, and his sister, Norma Madden of Pittsburgh.