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May 28th, 2015

Photographer Cotton Coulson Dies in Diving Accident on National Geographic Expedition

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Photographer Cotton Coulson, a former National Geographic contributor and Baltimore Sun DOP, died yesterday as a result of a diving accident last Sunday, according to NPPA‘s News Photographer magazine. He was 60 years old.

Coulson was participating as an instructor in a 17-day National Geographic adventure photography workshop in Norway when the accident occurred. According to the NPPA report, Coulson signaled trouble to a diving partner, who then dragged him to the surface of the water. The diving partner administered CPR, and rescue workers were able to re-start Coulson’s heart, but he never regained consciousness. He died at a hospital in Tromsø, Norway.

“We are devastated,” says photographer Doug Menuez, who along with his wife was close friends with Coulson and his wife, former National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg. Menuez remembers Coulson as an iconoclast “with a wicked sense of humor,” and adds, “Cotton wasn’t blowing his own horn. He was content to do excellent work, and let it speak for itself.

“It’s heartbreaking to think he’s gone.”

A National Geographic spokesperson told PDN that the publisher will soon issue a statement about Coulson’s death.

Coulson began contributing to National Geographic in 1975, after graduating from film school at New York University. He was hired as a contract photographer the following year, and produced more than a dozen stories for the magazine.

Around 1987, he became associate director of photography at US News & World Report, and several years later, joined The Baltimore Sun as Director of Photography.

In the mid 1990s, Coulson relocated to San Francisco, where he was senior VP/Product Development at CNET. About a decade ago, he and Brimberg moved to Copenhagen, and founded a production company called Keenpress. They produced photography and films about travel, climate issues, the environment and other subjects for various media outlets and corporations.

In addition to his wife, Coulson is survived by his son Calder and daughter Saskia, as well as by his sister and his mother.

May 22nd, 2015

In Memoriam: Environmental Portrait Photographer Seth Kushner, 41

Seth KushnerSeth Kushner, a photographer who shot environmental portraits for The New York Times Magazine, Time, Vibe and Businessweek and was selected for PDN’s 30 in 1999, died May 17 of leukemia. He was 41.

A native of Brooklyn, Kushner knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was in high school. After he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he began shooting a number of editorial assignments and was syndicated by Retna. When he was profiled for the first issue of PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 1999, photo editor Michelle Molloy, then at Newsweek, praised the vibrancy and energy of Kushner’s portraits, and noted, “He also hits it off well with people, which is important for a portrait photographer, yet he never loses perspective of the person he’s shooting.” Kushner said, “I want to say either by location or action or clothes or composition what my subjects are about, aside from simply what they look like.”

Kushner turned his passions for two of his favorite subjects – Brooklyn and comic books—into photo books. In 2007, he published The Brooklynites (powerHouse Books), which combined his environmental portraits of Brooklyn residents, both famous and unknown, with interviews by Anthony LaSala (former senior editor at PDN). Years before “Brooklyn” became synonymous with “hipster Mecca,” The Brooklynites celebrated residents from every part of the borough and every walk of life: writers and actors, a sanitation worker, a handball player, a pizza maker, clergy, teachers, British émigrés raising toddlers in Park Slope.

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

A collector of super-hero memorabilia, Kushner co-founded the website Graphic NYC in 2008 with writer Christopher Irving to celebrate pioneering comic book artists. Kushner expanded the website into a book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comic Books, published by powerHouse Books in 2012. It featured Kushner’s portraits of such artists as Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; Frank Miller, creator of Sin City; and Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic memoir Maus.

Kushner was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. Members of the communities Kushner was most involved with – the photo community, comic book artists and fans, and his neighborhood in Brooklyn—contributed to an online fundraising campaign set up to raise money for medical bills and living expenses while Kushner was unable to work. Memorial contributions to the campaign will now help support his wife, Terra, and their son, Jackson, who survive him.

Related article:
PDN Photo of the Day: Real-Life Comic Book Heroes

March 24th, 2015

Obituary: Paul C. Buff, 78


Paul Conrad Buff, founder of the lighting company that bears his name, passed away this week of unspecified causes. He was 78.

While he best known in the photo industry for his low-cost lighting solutions, Buff also made his mark in the music industry. According to the Paul C. Buff website, Buff was the owner of Pal Music Studios in California, birthplace of the surf music revolution, which he later sold to Frank Zappa. He also pioneered the computerized recording console.

Buff turned his attention to photography lighting, founding Paul C. Buff, Inc. in 1980. He sought to reduce the price of studio gear by selling direct to consumers.

You can read an obituary of Buff penned by his wife, Deborah, here.

December 9th, 2014

Obituary: LIFE Photographer Ralph Morse, 97

Photographer Ralph Morse, who covered war, sports, science, celebrities, theater, and other assignments during his long career as a staff photographer for LIFE and TIME magazines, died December 7 at his home in Florida. He was 97.

Morse’s death was reported yesterday by TIME magazine, which said on its website that “no photographer in the history of LIFE magazine had a more varied, thrilling and productive career.” Morse became LIFE’s youngest World War II correspondent when he joined the magazine in 1941 at the age of 24.

He covered the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and later on, the liberation of Paris in 1944 and the surrender of Germany at Reims in 1945. After the war, Morse covered a wide range of assignments for LIFE, beginning with Broadway and the London theater, and eventually sports, science and technology, and other subjects.

Besides the major events of World War II, Morse was witness to other historic moments of the 20th century. TIME describes his iconic shot of Jackie Robinson “one of the greatest baseball photographs ever made.” Morse also photographed Babe Ruth’s farewell at Yankee Stadium, Einstein’s funeral, the Ali-Liston fight, and other events.

According to TIME, Morse was the first civilian to fly on a Strategic Air Command B-47 Stratojet, a nuclear bomber developed during the Cold War. He was also the first to shoot color photographs of the caves of Lascaux. He also covered NASA’s Mercury space flight program.

He remained a staff photographer for LIFE magazine until it folded in 1972, then joined TIME magazine. He retired in 1988, and told John Leongard, author of LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, that he sold all his cameras and and stopped taking photographs to avoid “everybody and his brother” asking him to photograph their weddings.

December 8th, 2014

Obituary: Street Photographer Arthur Leipzig, 86

Arthur Leipzig, a documentary photographer who captured daily life in New York City, died on Friday, December 5, 2014, at his home in Sea Cliff, N.Y., The New York Times reports.  He was 96.

A high-school dropout, Leipzig studied under Sid Grossman at the Photo League, enrolling in 1941 after he injured his hand in an industrial accident. He soon after joined the staff of the daily newspaper PM, and began photographing the children of New York City, work later immortalized in the 1994 book Growing Up in New York. Leipzig claimed he was inspired by the Flemish painter Pierter Bruegel the Elder and his depictions of children’s games in Renaissance-era Flanders.

51g-CDLasdL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_He was born Isidore Leipzig on Oct. 25, 1918, in Brooklyn, NY, but never used his first name, and legally changed it to Arthur when he came of age. Leipzig lost his sight in his left eye while covering a story on backyard skating rinks, but still retained enough depth perception to continue in photography.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City included his work in its exhibition of photography’s “New Faces” in 1946, and his photo “Sleeping Child” was exhibited as part of “Photography in the Fine Arts” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1960. Leipzig’s work is a part of the permanent collections of the MoMA, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. His photos were exhibited in 24 solo shows, and he published four books of photography. From 1968–1991, he taught art at C.W. Post College of Long Island University, and in 2004 he was given the Lucie Award for fine arts photography by the Lucie Foundation.

He is survived by his wife of 72 years, the former Mildred Levin; his daughter, Judith; his son, Joel; three grandsons and a great-granddaughter.

November 26th, 2014

Obituary: Lewis Baltz, Age 69

Lewis Baltz, a star of the New Topographics movement of the late 1960s and 70s, has died. According to his longtime gallerist Theresa Luisotti, the photographer passed away at his home in Paris, France, on Saturday, November 22, 2014 of complications related to cancer and emphysema. He was 69 years old.

Along with Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke and Stephen Shore, Baltz was a major contributor to the New Topography, a movement that broadened the scope of landscape photography, famously bursting onto the art scene with the famed exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape,” at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, in 1975. Baltz is best known for his bleak suburban landscapes—stark images of manmade structures devoid of human presence—such as those in his seminal 1974 book, The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California.

"The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, California"

“South Wall Mazda Motos, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine” on the original cover of “The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, California” as published by Castelli Graphics in 1974.

Baltz was born in Newport Beach, California, on September 12, 1945. His parents owned a mortuary business. The rapidly developing Southern California suburbs heavily influenced Baltz; he witnessed firsthand the cities’ sprawl, devouring the landscape with concrete and asphalt as it spread.

He was exposed to photography and art as a teen, when he took a job working in a camera store in Laguna Beach and was mentored by its owner, William Current. He would study at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Claremont Graduate School.

After the “New Topographics” show at Eastman House, the Castelli Gallery in New York exhibited work from The New Industrial Parks, and by 1977, his work was included in the Whitney Biennial.

His books Park City (1980) and San Quentin (1984)would form an informal trilogy with The New Industrial Parks, exploring the role of humanity’s use of technology to shape the American landscape. The exploration would culminate in his 84-image Candlestick Point project, which documented an open space between an airport and sports stadium where, thanks to development, all signs of nature had been stamped out.

Baltz moved to Europe in the late 1980s, began working with color, and eventually started teaching graduate courses at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He is survived by his wife Slavica Perkovic and his daughter Monica Baltz.

November 13th, 2014

Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

Idaho cowboy coverPhotographer David Stoecklein, who built a small publishing empire on his photographs of cowboys, horses, and western lifestyle and landscapes, died November 10 at the age of 65, according to a report in the Idaho Mountain Express. The newspaper gave no details about the cause of death.

Based in Ketchum, Idaho, Stoecklein began his career as an outdoor lifestyle photographer shooting advertising assignments for clients including Coca Cola, L.L. Bean, Reebok, Timberland and others. According to his website, his passion for the ranching heritage of the American West led him to focus on that subject, which led to assignments from Stetson-Roper USA, Wrangler, Agri Beef, Eddie Bauer, Chevrolet, Ford, Marlboro, and numerous others. He also contributed to numerous magazines including Western Horseman, Farm and Ranch Magazine, Cowboys and Indians, and Working Ranch magazine.

In addition to his assignment work, Stoecklein published at least 28 books, among them titles such as The Cowboy Boot, Dude Ranches of the American West, The Cowboy Horse, and The Idaho Cowboy. Along with the many books, he sold cards, calendars, posters, and prints through his website.  Stoecklein also ran frequent photo workshops at his ranch in Mackay, Idaho

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons.

October 27th, 2014

Obituary: David Armstrong, Age 60

Photographic artist David Armstrong, who first made his name as a member of the “Boston School” with Jack Pierson, Mark Morrisroe and Nan Goldin, and eventually shot for Vogue, GQ, and other fashion clients, died October 25, in Los Angeles, from liver cancer.  He was 60 years old. reported that Armstrong’s agent, Jed Root, had confirmed the news.

Born in Arlington, Massachusetts, Armstrong was also very much of New York City, his long-time home. With intentions to become a painter, he attended the Boston Museum School and Cooper Union in New York. He received his B.F.A. from Tufts in 1988.

Along with fellow “Boston School” contemporaries like Stephen “Tabboo!” Tashjian, Armstrong and his friends made art of their lives in the counterculture. He first met Nan Goldin as a teenager, and their work was first shown together at PS1’s “New York/New Wave” exhibit in 1981.

David Armstrong 615 Jefferson

The cover of David Armstrong’s 2011 monograph 615 Jefferson Avenue. © Damiani/Photo by David Armstrong

Armstrong is often cited as having had a significant influence on Ryan McGinley, who also turned an interesting life with beautiful young friends into photographic art. Much of Armstrong’s work features lots of natural light, and his gaze is unmistakably erotic. Throughout his career, he made sharp-focused portraits of beautiful young boys, but he also made cityscapes in soft focus, especially after moving to Berlin in the early 1990s. His work was included in the 1995 Whitney Biennial.

Armstrong ushered into the universe of fashion by designer Hedi Slimane, who first commissioned him to make backstage photos of his work at Dior Homme. He would go on to be published in the French, Italian and Japanese editions of Vogue, Arena Homme+, GQ and Out, among other magazines, and counted Ermenegildo Zegna, Kenneth Cole, Burberry, Puma and Rodarte amongst his commercial clients.

Over his career he published several books, including a 1994 collaboration with his old friend, Nan Goldin/David Armstrong: A Double Life; he also published1997’s The Silver Cord, and a 2012 pressing of 30-plus-year-old photographs called Night & Day. His final monograph, 615 Jefferson Avenue, is comprised of bright portraits of male models taken at his house in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

In a conversation with old friend Jack Pierson about his process and motivation, published in Out magazine in 2011, he said, “I always think you want to come away with some beautiful, beautiful picture of the person, the boy, that’s really everything you want to express about them. Or, at least something you can rub one out to.”

October 20th, 2014

Obituary: South African Photographer Thabiso Sekgala, 33

memorial-serviceThabiso Sekgala, whose images of the restricted homelands established under South Africa’s apartheid regime have been exhibited internationally, died October 15. Market Photo Workshop, the Johannesburg school where Sekgala studied, announced his death on October 17. The cause of death appears to be suicide, but a police investigation into his death is still being conducted, according to Lekgetho Makola, Market Photo Workshop’s manager of programs and projects.

Born in Johannesburg, Sekgala studied at the Market Photo Workshop. In 2013 he was artist-in-residence at both the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, and HIWAR/Durant Al Funun, Jordan. His show “Homeland,” a series of portraits and landscapes made in the restricted areas where black South Africans were segregated under apartheid, was exhibited at Recyclart & The vieuwer, a gallery in Brussels. Earlier this year, Goodman Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, showed “Running,” made up of images Sekgala shot in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; Amman, Jordan; and Berlin, Germany. His work was also shown at international photo festivals including Photoquai in Paris and Rencontres d’Arles (see PDN Photo of the Day for a selection of images shown in “Transitions” at the Rencontres d’Arles). Images from “Homeland” were included in “The Rise and Fall of Apartheid” exhibition, which was shown at the International Center of Photography in New York City, Haus der Kunst in Munich and Museum Africa in Johannesburg.

Sekgala is survived by his mother, his two brothers, and his daughter. A memorial service, being organized by Market Photo Workshop, Goodman Gallery and the Goethe Institut, will be held October 23 at Market Photo Workshop. Details are available on the Market Photo Workshop website.

Related articles:

PDN Photo of the Day: A Period of Transition in South Africa

Another Africa: In Conversation with Artist Thabiso Sekgala (August 2014)

September 3rd, 2014

Russian Photojournalist Missing in Eastern Ukraine Confirmed Dead

Andrei Stenin, 33, a photographer with the Russian state agency RIA Novosti, who had been reported missing in the eastern Ukraine August 5, has been found dead, his agency confirmed today. In a statement, Dmitry Kiselev, the head of RIA Novosti, said Stenin had been traveling in a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians fleeing the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops.  “His car was hit by shots and it had been burnt on the road close to Donetsk,” a stronghold of pro-Russian rebels where Stenin had been reporting before he disappeared. An autopsy confirmed a body found in the car was Stenin’s.

After his disappearance, RIA Novosti published a report, based on an anonymous source, that Stenin was being held by the Ukrainian security service (SBU). Though SBU denied the allegation, RIA Novosti, Russian media organizations and international press freedom groups around the world had advocated for his release. Kisolev told press today, “It turns out he was not a prisoner, he has been dead a month.”

The Russian foreign ministry called on Ukraine’s government to conduct a “thorough and unbiased investigation into the murder of Andrei Stenin and severely punish those responsible.”

Related article
Photographer Reported Missing in Eastern Ukraine