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Remembering Henry Grossman Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

9 January 2023

Henry Grossman, who made revealing formal portraits as well as intimate candids, died on Nov. 27 in Englewood, N.J. after being hospitalized several months after a fall. He was 86.

Grossman was born in New York City to a famous Russian etcher who made images of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Benito Mussolini. His father died when he was 10 and his mother helped support the family by selling her husband's etchings.

At 16, Grossman graduated from Metropolitan Vocational and Technical High School in Manhattan where he had studied photography. He attended Brandeis on a scholarship where he received a degree in theater arts and did graduate work in anthropology.

At Brandeis he made a life-long friend in David Zimmerman when Zimmerman saw some of Grossman's prints washing the darkroom where he worked. In an remembrance, Zimmerman recalled:

A big man with a tiny 35mm camera, Henry's camera work was effervescent. When shooting, he moved and shifted constantly to keep the lens focused on his subject's facial or bodily expressions in a tangent, like two pas de deux dancers in motion.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a Brandeis trustee who Grossman photographed her several times. "Through his lens, she was gracious and strong," Zimmerman notes.

After college, Grossman worked as freelance photographer for Life, Time, Newsweek and Paris Match, among other magazines, and for The Times. He was subsequently hired as a staff photographer for Life Magazine.

After photographing John F. Kennedy's announcement to run for presidency, Grossman documented the senator's campaign. After Kennedy was elected president he became a friend of the family and was often invited to photograph at personal and private events.

Grossman's chiaroscuro portraits, inspired by his father's etchings, of Kennedy and Johnson ran on the front page of the New York Times when Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson became president.

When asked what photography meant to him in a profile for Brandeis magazine, Grossman called his photos "a souvenir of the time. I started taking pictures for remember. People that I liked or knew."

In 1964 Grossman was assigned to cover the Beatles television debut on the Ed Sullivan show. His acting background made his a sympathetic photographer to performers in general, a fly on the wall rather than a director posing props. He photographed the band through 1968. A selection of those images can be seen at Govinda Gallery.

"I learned a lot from the Beatles," he remembered. "I was interested in how they took to fame, how they used it. It wasn't easy for them."

Grossman was both a photographer and a tenor.

In his twenties, Grossman studied at the Actors Studio. After touring in the 1960s with the national company of the Metropolitan Opera, Grossman made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1973 and went on to appear with the Washington Opera Society and the Philadelphia Lyric Opera. In the 1980s, he performed in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti, and in the 1990s he sang in three productions at the Metropolitan Opera.

He is survived by his former wife Carol Hauptfuhrer, son David, daughter Christine and sister Suzanne.

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