Iconic American Photographer and Journalist Steve Schapiro Dies at 87

Widely known for his work in photojournalism of 20th century America and his famous portraits of celebrities, Steve Shapiro has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old.

Shapiro is survived by Maura Smith, his 39-year-old wife, sons Theophilus Donoghue and Adam Shapiro, and daughters Ellie Harvey and Taylor Shapiro.

Early career influences

Shapiro, born in New York City in 1934, was interested in photography from an early age, according to a report from blind. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson, he took to the streets and trained himself to capture “the defining moment”.

Early in his career, William Eugene Smith, one of the most prominent American photographers who focused on photo essays, helped shape Shapiro’s view of photography. Shapiro then moved on to using photography as a tool to highlight the various cultural and political shifts in the country, working for publications such as lifeAnd a lookAnd timeAnd rolling rock, And Vanity Fair.

His photo essays covered a wide range of topics, such as the civil rights movement, the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy, migrant workers in Arkansas, hippies in Haight-Asprey, Easter celebrations in Harlem, and others.

In his photography, Shapiro believes in the importance of connecting with his subjects which also results in powerful and emotional images.

“Forty percent of the work is about character, so the best thing to do is to be very fleeting and quiet,” Shapiro told journalist Marcus Wheeler. “The best opportunities arise when you initially stay on the sidelines and wait for an emotional situation. To have a revealing moment that gives you a sense of who this person is.”

“And it’s always a good idea not to look stylized and start talking right away. It’s not about you! Instead, it’s about looking for an iconic image that has a great sense of the person and the situation.”

Distinguished profession

Besides historiography of America, Shapiro has worked with Hollywood film studios and created iconic campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s. Notable examples include still images from films such as The Godfather, the midnight cowboy, the taxi driver, the way we were, And Risky businesss.

Shapiro has also filmed for the album covers of Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, and Charlie Byrd. This was later followed by collaborations with Barbra Streisand and David Bowie.

With his photography order, he’s also captured other influential icons who somehow changed the world with their vision, such as Truman Capote, Andy Warhol, Muhammad Ali, Allen Ginsberg and Mae West.

Shapiro continued to do well into his 80s, which ended with his death of pancreatic cancer.

“Although I feel like I’ve taken a lot of good photos, I can’t stop believing I can always do something better,” he told Woeller.


Image credits: Title image posted under Creative Commons.

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