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Steve Schapiro, Acclaimed Photojournalist, Dies at 87


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Steve Schapiro, the photojournalist and documentarian who covered the civil rights movement, produced stills for The Godfather and Taxi Driver and shot portraits of David Bowie, Barbra Streisand, Andy Warhol and Ray Charles, has died. He was 87.

Schapiro died Saturday at his home in Chicago of pancreatic cancer, a publicist announced.

Schapiro photographed the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968.

He produced advertising materials, publicity stills and posters for movies including Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Godfather (1972), The Way We Were (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Risky Business (1983) and Billy Madison (1995) and collaborated with Streisand and Bowie for record covers.

His 2007 book Schapiro’s Heroes, winner of an Art Directors Club Cube Award, featured profiles and portraits of Streisand, Warhol, Kennedy, Charles, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett and Truman Capote.

Other books included 2008’s The Godfather Family Album; 2010’s Taxi Driver; 2012’s Then and Now, with photos of Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, John Huston, Otto Preminger, Orson Welles and others; 2016’s Bowie and Barbra Streisand; 2017’s The Fire Next Time, with his civil rights photos taken from 1963-68 accompanied by Baldwin text; and 2018’s Ali.

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Martin Scorsese (left) and Robert De Niro on the set of 1976’s ‘Taxi Driver’

Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery

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David Bowie in New Mexico in 1975

Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery

A native of New York, Schapiro discovered photography at age 9 while at summer camp. He studied with photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, who would inform his concerned humanistic approach to photography, and attempted to emulate the work of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Schapiro started out in 1961 as a freelancer, and his photos would appear on the covers of magazines including Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, People and Paris Match.

He produced photo essays on subjects as varied as narcotics addition, Easter in Harlem, the Apollo Theater, Haight-Ashbury, poodles and presidents.

Since the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1969 exhibition Harlem on My Mind, which included a number of his images, his photographs have appeared in museum and gallery exhibitions around the world. Recent one-man shows have been mounted in Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Maura, and children Theophilus, Adam, Elle and Taylor. Donations in his name can be made to Chicago’s Saint Sabina church.

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