Burt Glinn, a photojournalist, commercial
photographer and former president of the Magnum photo agency, died on
Wednesday in Southampton, N.Y. He was 82 and lived in East Hampton, N.Y.
The cause was kidney failure and pneumonia, his wife, Elena, said.
Mr. Glinn was one of the first Americans to join Magnum, the
international cooperative founded by a group of photographers that
included Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He became a member of
the agency in 1951 and served as its president twice, in the early 1970s
and again in the late '80s.
A spontaneous and observant photographer, he covered some of the biggest
events of the cold war. On New Year's Eve 1958, he flew to Cuba to
document Fidel Castro's triumphal, weeklong trek across the island to
assume power in Havana.
In 1959, late to a photo shoot, he took his best-known photograph, an
offbeat one of the Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev showing the back
of his head as he gazes up at the Lincoln Memorial. Mr. Glinn was
blocked from a front view by the pack of photographers.
"If I'd been on time, I would have gotten a very ordinary picture of
Khrushchev and Henry Cabot Lodge looking at this statue of Lincoln, but
you couldn't see the statue," he said later.
Mr. Glinn also took on in-depth assignments from magazines, particularly
Holiday, which devoted several complete issues to his work. His photo
essay on the South Seas for the magazine won the 1960 Mathew Brady
Magazine Photographer of the Year award from the University of Missouri
and Encyclopedia Britannica.
He traveled to Japan for Holiday in 1961, and then, two years later,
went to the Soviet Union to photograph aspects of daily life seldom seen
in the West. Pictures from those assignments are collected in two books
published by William Morrow, "A Portrait of All the Russias" (1967) and
"A Portrait of Japan" (1968). Both include text by the author and
explorer Laurens van der Post.
In traveling overseas to create what amounted to national portraits, Mr. Glinn was motivated by an anthropological interest.
"I have come to believe that all societies, from the most primitive to
the most sophisticated, are driven by similar fears, myths and
superstitions," he wrote in a profile for the reference book
"Contemporary Photographers." "Most of my personal favorites, among all
the pictures I have taken, document these varieties of religious
Burton Samuel Glinn was born in Pittsburgh on July 23, 1925. He entered
Harvard in 1943 but left after a semester when he was drafted into the
Army. He served in the artillery in Germany, then returned to Harvard to
study history and literature, graduating in 1949.
Largely self-taught as a photographer, he first worked in the field as a photo assistant at Life magazine.
In addition to doing news and documentary work, he also produced
memorable photographs of Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and other
He was a successful commercial photographer as well, with corporate
clients that included Pepsico, General Motors and Revlon. He did
advertising photography for I.B.M., T.W.A. and Seagram, among others,
and won the award for the best print ad of 1972 from the Art Directors
Club of New York for his work for Foster-Grant sunglasses.
His most recent book, "Havana: The Revolutionary Moment," was published
in 2002 by Umbrage Editions. It includes his 1959 photographs of Fidel
Castro, along with new pictures he took in Cuba on the 40th anniversary
of the takeover.
His work is the subject of a current exhibition by the Seattle Art Museum.
In addition to his wife, who is known professionally as Elena Prohaska,
he is survived by his son, Sam, of Manhattan, and his sister, Norma
Madden of Pittsburgh.
By Stuart Lavietes
For The New York Times