Former ‘Life’ photographer to share portraits, lessons

By Kristin Sherrard

Georgia O’Keeffe, Shakers, American cowboys and Louis Armstrong all have one thing in common: John Loengard used his lens to try and capture their spirits.

Loengard, best known as a photographer and picture editor for Life and People magazines, is remembered for “his flare for capturing the unexpected,” said Dorothy Freeman, UK Art Museum’s public relations and publications coordinator.

Loengard will speak today at 4 p.m. in Worsham Theatre in the Student Center as part of the 11th Annual Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series. His work will be on display at the UK Art Museum through Jan. 6, 2008.

Life magazine offered Loengard a freelance assignment while still a student at Harvard University and in 1961 he joined the staff as a news photographer, according to the UK Art Museum Web site.

“His portraits are really, really extraordinary,” said Janie Welker, UK Art Museum’s curator of exhibitions. “He really has made portraits of so many of the leading cultural figures of our time, from Maya Angelou to Jimmy Carter.

“He just seems to have a way of allowing people to reveal themselves in surprising ways,” she said.

In 1972, Life ended its run as a weekly publication and Loengard became picture editor of a new magazine called People. He returned to Life when it was re-launched as a monthly magazine. He worked there as picture editor from 1978 to 1987, according to the UK Art Museum Web site.

Since then, Loengard has worked as a photographer, editor, writer and speaker.

“He has such an incredible wealth of experience,” Welker said. “Not only has he done this great photojournalistic work himself, but he has worked with some of the great photographers of the 20th century.”

In a time when technology and the Internet dominate, Loengard’s work still stands out as being among the best, Welker said.

“He just seems to reach for their souls somehow,” Welker said.