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Remembering Don Hogan Charles Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

27 December 2017

Don Hogan Charles, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 79, was the first black photographer the New York Times had ever hired. He spent over four decades on the staff, covering the city that never sleeps from his unique perspective until his retirement in 2007.

Born to Caribbean immigrants, he graduated from George Washington High School in Manhattan and attended City College of New York as an engineering student. But he left his slide rule for the camera and was hired by the Times in 1964.

He would check his tailpipe for explosives when covering those volatile events.

He also freelanced. A photo he took for Ebony of Malcom X guarding his family with a rifle as he looks carefully out of a window of his Queens home became his best-known work.

But that was only one of a number of powerful images he shot of the civil rights movement in he 1960s. Those included the 1967 Newark riots and Martin Luther King's funeral.

He would check his tailpipe for explosives when covering those volatile events.

His work also appeared in Der Spiegel and Paris Match and he had a number of commercial clients in the fashion industry as well.

He felt it his duty to cover the civil rights movement. As a black man, he had a different view of the story than white photographers and reporters.

But it wasn't just the front page events that engaged his lens. As a 27 year-old, he spent a weekend documenting Harlem, taking almost 600 images. And he captured high school star Lew Alcindor before he became NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He felt another duty, too. He was a mentor to many young, female photographers. And he also stood up for them, photographer Michelle Agins remembered, preventing other people from bullying them.

He knew their pain.

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