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Obit of the Day: Taught Ken Burns Everything He Knows

Jerome Loebling liked to debate his father about politics and preferred to back up his arguments. So as a teenager he took his Kodak Brownie camera into the streets of Brooklyn snapping shots of social injustice he found as evidence for his point-of-view. Liebling never stopped shooting.

Becoming one of the “nation’s premier documentary photographers” Liebling would capture images of life as he found it. Whether it was a child in Brooklyn (“Butterfly Boy”, top) or U.S. Senators (Hubert H. Humphrey, D-Minn. at a baseball game based on add’l. input it may be a football game, center right) Liebling found the perfect moment, look, and framing and captured it forever.

“The work has never been flamboyant. It’s always been under control, beautifully made, and very deeply felt, without being in any way hyperbolic.” - John Szarkowski

His greatest success may have been as a professor. Teaching at the University of Minnesota from two decades (1949-1969) and then at Hampshire College (Massachusetts) for two more (1970-1990) Liebling’s students won Emmys, Oscars and Peabodys for their work. More than two dozen students became professional photographers or filmmakers. The most famous of his pupils is popular documentarian Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz).

(All four images copyright Jerome Liebling, courtesy of jeromeliebling.com)

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