Deceased January 15, 2022

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In Memory

Although Steve spent only his freshman year with us before completing his education at Bard College, his love for the Amherst countryside stayed with him forever. He felt fortunate to have had a great conversation with Robert Frost and to have studied with Benjamin DeMott. Around the time of our 50th reunion, Steve and his wife, Maura, lived in Amherst and attended our reunion banquet. He said Amherst was an awakening experience for him.

At age 9, Steve became interested in photography at summer camp. That inspired his life’s work. He was a world-renowned photojournalist, shooting some of the most enduring images of the latter half of the 20th century. Steve began as a freelance photographer for Life and Look magazines. His interest in the struggle for racial equality across the Jim Crow South resulted in his widely seen photos of such individuals as Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin and a young John Lewis. When Lewis died in 2020, Steve’s portrait of him appeared on Time’s cover. Steve believed his civil rights images stood out because so few photographers were covering the movement.

The day that King was killed, Steve was the first person to get inside King’s hotel room. He also photographed items in James Earl Ray’s nearby room, including a vivid handprint. As the interest in great photo magazines faded, Steve moved to Los Angeles, where he photographed the making of movies, publicity materials and posters. He shot the cover for the debut issue of People magazine in 1974.

Steve felt maybe the camera would become obsolete (due to cell phones taking photos), but he said, “It is the photographer who counts, not the camera!” He was a spirited person, empathetic and giving; his primary motivation was to help the world be a better place.

—Rob Sowersby ’55