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'His images moved minds': The legacy of Steve Schapiro

Martin Luther King Jr., center, leads one of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. With King, from left, are Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Jesse Douglas and John Lewis.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

By Kyle Almond and Will Lanzoni, CNN

Updated 1901 GMT (0301 HKT) January 21, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr., center, leads one of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. With King, from left, are Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Jesse Douglas and John Lewis.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Steve Schapiro, an acclaimed photojournalist perhaps best known for his work documenting the civil rights movement, died January 15 at the age of 87.

"We have lost a giant of 20th-century photography, and Schapiro's contributions are immeasurable," said Bob Ahern, director of archive photography for Getty Images. "His talent defied genres, and he brought a compassionate and informed eye to events that decades later are still shaping our lives and our news today."

Schapiro photographed the March on Washington in 1963 as well as the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. He took iconic images of Martin Luther King Jr. and covered Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.

Schapiro "was important to the movement," filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted after his death, adding that "his images moved minds during a crucial time."

Schapiro was also known for his portraits of some of the world's biggest celebrities, including Muhammad Ali, David Bowie and Barbra Streisand. He worked on movie sets, too, producing still photography for "The Godfather," "Taxi Driver" and other major films.

Through the years, his work appeared on the covers of countless magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and Vanity Fair.

"It's rare to find photographers that can make photographs across so many genres and with such ease, but Steve's camera intersected with so many pivotal points in history and he did it all," Ahern said.

Writer James Baldwin dances in New Orleans with a woman who worked for the Congress of Racial Equality. "Baldwin introduced me to the civil rights movement," Schapiro wrote. "I read his article about the conditions of Blacks in America, which later became 'The Fire Next Time,' and immediately called my editor at Life asking if I could do a photo essay on Baldwin. He struck me as someone who was particularly charismatic in the way he was influencing a very important subject."

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Actress and musician Barbra Streisand smiles as she sits in a bathtub in 1967. Schapiro shot album covers and artwork for Streisand.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy campaigns in California in 1967. He was assassinated shortly after winning the state's Democratic primary in June 1968.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Director Martin Scorsese sits behind actor Robert De Niro during the filming of 1976's "Taxi Driver." Schapiro took photos on the movie sets of many famous movies, including "The Godfather" and "Chinatown."

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Boxing great Muhammad Ali strikes a playful pose in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1963. Schapiro was on assignment for Sports Illustrated, and this was early in the boxer's career. Schapiro said he saw a different side of Ali. "He really was extremely quiet and incredibly polite — in every way, just a terrific person," Schapiro told Rolling Stone in 2018.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images



At left, a young activist wears white face paint reading "vote" as he takes part in a Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. At right, a woman at the march holds a sign that says "stop police killings." Schapiro's civil rights photos "bring us an intimacy and stillness that connect us profoundly with their subjects," Ahern said. "He made photos that informed, but he also made us feel — a byproduct of his remarkable talent but also of his own activism and point of view."

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Singer David Bowie holds up a biography of actor Buster Keaton in 1975. "He found out that I had photographed Buster Keaton and Keaton was one of his heroes, so we immediately became friends," Schapiro recalled in 2016. Schapiro shot a couple of album covers for Bowie.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Protesters take part in the March on Washington in 1963. At center is baseball player Jackie Robinson, with his arm around his son David. Rosa Parks is also in front, wearing a black dress with a white jacket.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Comedian and filmmaker Mel Brooks poses with a prosthetic mask from his movie "Young Frankenstein" in 1974.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Musician Ray Charles sits at a table full of executives in 1971.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Comedian George Carlin holds a cardboard cutout of his younger self.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

From left, art critic Henry Geldzahler, actress Edie Sedgwick, actor Fu-Fu Smith, artist Andy Warhol and poet Gerard Malanga attend a party in New York in 1965.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Robert F. Kennedy speaks to students at the University of California-Berkeley in 1966. "On his travels throughout the country, he was met with excitement and hope," Schapiro said in 2018. "He came to talk at a stadium rally in Berkeley, California, to an overenthusiastic crowd. Throughout the course of his speeches, he emphasized problems that were had and potential solutions."

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Surrealist painter Rene Magritte is photographed near some of his paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1965.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Couples are seen under the Coney Island Boardwalk in New York in 1961.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Actor Marlon Brando has his hair and makeup done as he transforms into Don Corleone in the 1972 film "The Godfather."

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

A child dances at the Apollo Theater in New York in 1964.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Civil rights activist John Lewis is photographed in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1963. This photo was later on the cover of Time magazine when Lewis, a longtime activist and US congressman, died in 2020. "It's a picture of someone who knows who he is, knows what he has to do, and for the rest of his life, after this picture, he did it," Schapiro told Time.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

The Supremes — from left, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard — perform at a concert circa 1965.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

A woman sits in a rocking chair at a cabin in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1964.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Artist Andy Warhol, left, and art dealer Irving Blum stand amid Warhol's "Silver Clouds" installation at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1966.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

At left, Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Selma demonstrators are seen on the right.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Actor Martin Sheen glances over his shoulder as director Francis Ford Coppola directs "Apocalypse Now" in 1979.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

Writer James Baldwin comforts an abandoned child at a neighbor's home in Durham, North Carolina, in 1963.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images

People join hands in Oxford, Mississippi, as they take part in the Freedom Summer Project in 1964. College students worked in Mississippi for 10 weeks to register more African American voters. "As we increasingly look to decode our pasts to understand the present, Schapiro's body of work is destined to remain as relevant and as poignant as the day it was shot," Ahern said.

Steve Schapiro/Getty Images