Obit of the Day: LIFE Photographer John Dominis
The last weekly editor of LIFE, Robert Graves, once said that if he was starting a photography-based magazine and had to choose only one photographer he would choose John Dominis.
Mr. Dominis worked for the legendary weekly from 1950 until the journal’s last issue in 1972.
The son of Croatian immigrants, Mr. Dominis fell in love with photography while attending Fremont High School in Los Angeles. It was there that he enrolled in Clarence A. Bach’s three-year photography course. Mr. Bach would pave the way for dozens of students to become photojournalists including Mr. Dominis.
After attending USC briefly where he played football, including a 1944 Rose Bowl victory, Mr. Dominis left the university early to join the U.S. Army Air Corps where he served as a combat photographer.
He joined LIFE in 1950 after he volunteered to cover the Korean War. Over the next twenty-two years, Mr. Dominis would cover celebrities (Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra), sports (Mickey Mantle, 1968 Olympics), and spent extensive time in Africa capturing images of wildlife.
John Dominis died on December 30, 2013 at the age of 92.
Top left: A leopard about to kill a baboon, Botswana, 1966. This photograph was staged. Mr. Dominis and local hunter traveled into the desert with the leopard in the back of their pick-up truck. They released the leopard in order that Mr. Dominis would capture action shots. Neither man expected the leopard to catch and kill a baboon. Copyright John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Top right: Mickey Mantle flings his helmet in disgust after a lousy at-bat, Yankee Stadium, 1965. Mantle began playing for the Yankees in 1951. He was another four years from retirement when this photo was taken. Copyright John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Center: Gold medalist Tommie Smith (center) and bronze medalist John Carlos (right) raise black-gloved fists during the American national anthem at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Australian sprinter Peter Norman, who won silver in the 200 meters and supported Carlos and Smith’s protest, stands at left. This is Mr. Dominis’ most famous photo and was taken on October 20, 1968. Mr. Dominis would later say that even when he took the photo it did not seem to be a big news event. Copyright John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Bottom left: Steve McQueen and his wife, Neile, take a sulphur bath at Big Sur, 1963. Mr. McQueen was known for his reluctance to share his private life. After agreeing to the photo shoot with Mr. Dominis, he still tried to avoid him by fleeing to the Mojave Desert for a motorcycle race. Mr. Dominis rented a sporty Jaguar, headed into the desert, and offered to let Mr. McQueen drive. The moment eased tensions and Mr. Dominis followed Mr. McQueen for two weeks. Copyright John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Bottom: Southern Pacific Steam Engine, Donner Pass, 1949. Copyright John Dominis/Time & Life Pictures. Courtesy of artnet.com