John Dominis, 1921-2013

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John Dominis, [American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racial inequity with raised fists during national anthem at Olympics, Mexico City], 1968 (recto and verso) (1012.2005)

In the politically tumultuous year 1968, one of the enduring photographs of the raging civil rights struggle in America was taken by Life photographer John Dominis, who died December 28 at the age of 92. Dominis was a classic Life photographer skilled in fulfilling the most challenging assignments, whether the subject  was animals, sports, food, music, war, or Hollywood celebrities. He covered Vietnam and Woodstock, but his defining image was shot at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, both African Americans, had placed first and third in the men’s 200-meter dash, while Australian Peter Norman had placed second. As the American national anthem began to play, Smith and Carlos raised their clenched fists in a black power salute against racism in the U.S. Dominis’s representation of this silent protest inflamed international controversy when it ran in the  November 1, 1968, issue of Life magazine. This print, used to print that issue, was donated to ICP by Time-Life, where it was filed under “Negroes—Demonstrations.”

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