Photojournalist Steve Schapiro Dies in Chicago Home

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Photojournalist and social documentarian, Steve Schapiro, has passed away at the age of 87. His wife, Maura Smith, said the cause of his death was pancreatic cancer. He died in his Chicago home on Jan. 15, 2022.

He was born on Nov. 16, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. His full name was Stephen Albert Schapiro. He discovered the art of photography when he was nine years old while he was at summer camp.

The potential that the camera held excited him. He spent several decades prowling the streets of New York City trying to imitate the work of the French photographer he admired, Henri Cartier Bresson.

Courtesy of Fénix.707 (Flickr CC0)

Schapiro received his first formal photography education when he studied under photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. The photojournalist taught Schapiro the technical skills needed to succeed as a photographer. Smith also taught him to use his informed personal outlook and worldview.

Smith taught him to use a concerned humanistic approach to photography. This helped shape the love he already had for social documentaries.

Schapiro started his career in 1961 as a freelance photojournalist. His pictures have appeared internationally on magazine covers and in the pages themself.  His photographs have been featured in Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, People, Time, Life, Look, and Paris Match.

He produced several photo-essays on an array of subjects such as narcotics addiction, Easter in Halem, political protest, the Apollo Theater, Haight-Ashbury, poodles, many presidents, and the presidential campaign of Robert Kennedy.

Not only was he a well-known photojournalist and documentarist, but he was also a social justice activist. Schapiro worked on many stories related to the Civil Rights Movement including the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the Called by Life to Memphis after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

He married his wife in 1981. The civil rights activist started concentrating on film set photography shooting in 1969with “Midnight Cowboy.” After that, he worked on “The Godfather,” “Chinatown,” and “Taxi Driver.”

Some of the well-known faces Schapiro snapped images of are:

  • David Bowie;
  • Samual Beckett;
  • Eric Dolphy;
  • Muhammad Ali;
  • Al Pacino;
  • John Cazale;
  • James Baldwin;
  • Martin Luther King Jr.

Many people took to social media to share tributes to the late photojournalist. Leon peters replied to a Twitter post that he was “A great photographer.”

Kip Andrus tweeted, “A really big loss in photo journalism. Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe sells Shapiro’s works. A wonderful gallery for photo journalism.”

Barbra Streisand wrote, “Steve Schapiro was one of my favorite photographers. He followed me everywhere — London, Africa, on sets, off sets. He shall be missed, but he’s left us with [a] great legacy of wonderful work.”

To which Chris (Rad) Finch replied, “Every photo he took, always told a simple and clear story. Schapiro will be missed, regarding all of those photos.” Many individuals share FInch’s thoughts.

The last demonstration he photographed was a year ago in Terre Haute, Indiana, when activists spoke out against the death penalty.

He is survived by his wife, family, and friends. May he rest in peace.

Written by Sheena Robertson


The New York Times: Steve Schapiro, Photojournalist Who Bore Witness, Dies at 87; by Katharine Q. Seelye
Steve Schapiro: Biography
IMDb: Steve Schapiro

Inline Image Courtesy of Fénix.707’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top and Featured by Плотников Александр Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License

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