Sipa Press Founder Goksin Sipahioglu Dies

©Alix William/Sipa--Goksin Sipahioglu in 2003.

Goksin Sipahioglu, a former photojournalist and founder of the Sipa Press photo agency, died earlier today at the American hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, at the age of 84. He was surrounded by family and friends, according to Guillame Delpech, who is Photo Editor of Sipa Press USA. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Sipahioglu founded his photo agency in 1973 with American journalist Phyllis Springer. Sipa Press became part of the triumvirate (along with Gamma and Sygma) of French pictures agencies that dominated international photo news coverage in the 1970s and 1980s.

The three agencies relied on couriers to gather film from contributing photographers stationed all over the world, duplicated the original film en masse, and distributed so-called “picture packages” of duplicate images to magazine and newspaper clients throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia.

Robert Dannin, who worked for Sipa from 1978 to 1981, remembers Sipahioglu as a shrewd businessman who invested in a state-of-the-art commercial processing and printing operation “to subsidize his dream of a world class photo agency. No one else did this,” Dannin says. “They did work for event photographers, political campaigns, retailers, etc. One extraordinary job was a 1980 contract from the Iranian Ministry of Religious Guidance to make hundreds of large format color prints to decorate their embassies worldwide in celebration of the first anniversary of the revolution. In this case, it was no coincidence that the photographer, Hatami, covered the revolution for Sipa.”

Dannin also says Sipahioglu “viewed the world through the eyes of an Ottoman pasha” and hired beautiful woman “as accessories to his business…to drive every male in the place insane with lust. They were like sirens on a Venetian prow head.” Dannin says, “[Sipahioglu] was an anti-management manager” and adds, “Sipa’s highly eroticized agency was inspiring to say the least.”

A number of Sipa’s contributing photographers complained bitterly, however, that the agency cheated them out of royalties by not reporting sales of their images. Dannin says that was “consistent” with how the other agencies treated entry-level photojournalists, and that Sipahioglu “got away with it because he was giving people a start in the business.”

Sipahioglu was born in Izmir, Turkey in 1926. He graduated from the French Lycée Saint Joseph in Istanbul, and began his career as a sports reporter for the Istanbul Ekspress newspaper in 1952. In 1961 he began covering international stories for various dailies, and began taking pictures while on assignment. His images were distributed by Black Star, Gamma and other agencies before starting his own photo agency.

In 2001, he sold the agency to Sud Communications (which is owned by French industrialist Pierre Fabre). He continued as director of Sipa Press  until 2003.

He is survived by Phyllis Springer, whom he married in 2002.

3 Responses to “Sipa Press Founder Goksin Sipahioglu Dies”

  1. Sipa Press Founder Goksin Sipahioglu Dies | PDN Pulse « APhotoJurnal Says:

    […] Sipa Press Founder Goksin Sipahioglu Dies | PDN Pulse. […]

  2. James Fox Says:

    6 October 2011. Having known Goksin since spring of 1971 after returning from NY where I worked for MAGNUM for 5 years and went to Paris to start a big photo project for Encyclopaedia Britannica.Consequently I was recommended to see a newly created agency called SIPA which had a small office in a courtyard at the bottom of the Champs Elysees.That was the beginning of a long friendship and my 25 years working for MAGNUM photos in the Paris office,with numerous dealings and back and forth trips to the offices of SIPA to oversee the duplication of the MAGNUM slides for distribution to its Agents.Now in the digital age it seems an antique practise ,having retired 11 years ago we remained in contact and he kindly invited me to his wedding with Phyllis and saw him last this summer at an exhibition. Phyllis,Goksin and I sat at the terrace of a French cafe before going to an exhibition and although he appeared much weaker he remained full of wonderful stories and the center of events at the show.There was great charm in him, quick and wise decisions in the struggling years before digital photography.When I retired a group of young Turkish film-makers made a film on my life called THE EYE OF MAGNUM,James Fox… They took me to SIPA’s office where we were interviewed and filmed in his strange and gigantic office like a Hugh Heffner empire.He was kind and generous,an amazing Ambassador for photojournalism and several of his SIPA photographers finally became Members of MAGNUM Photos and my colleagues.
    Jimmy Fox

  3. Maggie Steber Says:

    I cannot believe Goksin has passed. I thought he would live forever. He gave me and hundreds, maybe thousands, of photographers their start. He was THE school of photography and many of us owe him greatly for creating a space for us as a younger generation. He was a big man, a large figure, he left an impression on you, he could get you to do almost anything in the way of coverage because he made you believe it was important and he could sell it. Perhaps he was the single most ELEGANT figure in photojournalism. Those who never knew him really missed knowing someone of great historic importance and someone whose influence on the photo biz remains unmatched. Long live the King!
    Maggie Steber