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.