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Remembering John Dominis Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

31 December 2013

Life photographer John Dominis passed away yesterday at home with his partner of three decades, the sculptor Evelyn Floret, at his side. He was 92.

Life editor Ralph Graves considered him the most valuable photographer on the staff, Floret remembered. His lens had captured reclusive celebrities, followed unpredictable beasts in the wild and stayed clean at muddy Woodstock.

And he took the indelible image of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics, their black-gloved fists raised on the victory stand as the National Anthem was played. They were protesting, Smith later explained, inequality in American society.

We ran the high hurdles in high school so Smith and Carlos were on our radar long before Dominis drew the world's attention to them. We admired them even more afterwards.

The humble Dominis remembered the shot as routine, hardly noticing what was happening as he snapped the shutter. He just happened to be one of a very few photographers in the media pen 20 feet from the stand.

But he knew what to do.

Dominis was born in Los Angeles, the youngest of four children. At Fremont High, he took Clarence A. Bach's three-year photojournalism course, the first in the country, which produced many professional photographers. Dominis attended USC where he studied filmaking and subsequently served as a combat photographer in Japan for the U.S. Army during World War II.

Among the highlights of his career at Life magazine were his coverage of the Korean War, Asia and Europe, JFK's 1963 Berlin trip, Nixon's trip to China in 1972, Woodstock and five Olympics. Among the celebrities he famously managed to capture were Steve McQueen, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

He considered Life magazine "like having a grant, a Guggenheim grant, but permanently." Life magazine has a collection of his work from 1949 through 1984.

Andn Floret created a Web page with links to Dominis' work as well as a place to "share your memories of your friendship with this extraordinary man." Many of his friends did just that prior to his passing.

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