Brian Lanker’s Legacy

Brian Lanker, a noted photojournalist, editorial and advertising photographer who recently passed away at age 63 after a battle with cancer, had many career milestones to be proud of. One of the most outstanding was his Pulitzer-prize for the photo essay he made in 1973, Moment of Life, in which a new mother (and his future wife) expressed her pain and ecstasy during and after the child birth process.

Brian Lanker from the Moment of Life series, 1973

However, despite the accolade, it is interesting to note that for Lanker “his greatest honor was being selected and featured in Images of Man, an audio visual educational program, along with W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Elliott Porter.”

Images of Man was an ambitious audio-visual series created by Cornell Capa and his Fund for Concerned Photography, edited by Sheila Turner-Seed, and co-produced by Scholastic in the early 1970s. It featured nine 15-20 minute photographic slideshows combined with the voices of photographers. In addition to Lanker and those listed above, Bruce Davidson, Lisette Model (unpublished), and Capa himself were included in the line-up. The programs were so successful that they are still being shown in some classrooms across the United States today.

The series was born out of Cornell’s passion for what he called “concerned photography,” or photography created with the intention of bringing to light worldly issues that photographers felt were important and in need of attention and positive correction. In Lanker’s program, Kansas, he aimed to “show people things they can’t see normally,” according to the Images of Man teaching guide. These “things” included his Pulitzer Prize-winning childbirth essay, Kansas farmers living the simple yet difficult life, and the dying economics of small town existence in America’s heartland.

With the exception of Cartier-Bresson and Capa, the programs exist only in analog formats, though ICP houses seventy audio reels of original interviews from the series, four of which are with Lanker. These reels, with interviews by writer, editor, and photographer Turner-Seed, are currently being digitized and will eventually be used to continue sharing ICP’s legacy with an international audience.

Listen to a short clip of the original interview here.

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