Jerome Liebling, Socially Conscious Documentary Photographer, Dies at 87

Jerome Liebling, Grain Worker, Minneapolis, Minn., 1950

Jerome Liebling, an influential documentary photographer and teacher for more than half a century, died on Wednesday in Northampton, Mass., at the age of 87, The New York Times reports.

Mr. Liebling was born in New York on April 16, 1924, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he studied at Brooklyn College, where he learned photography from the arch abstract painter Ad Reinhardt.

Along with photographers like Walker Evans and Paul Strand, Mr. Liebling helped define the look of documentary photography in the 20th century, recording the lives of ordinary people on the streets of New York, including in his childhood neighborhood of Brighton Beach, and around the world.

Most of Mr. Liebling’s life was spent teaching. He started a photography and film department at the University of Minnesota in 1949, and taught at Hampshire College from 1970 to 1990. The school’s photography building is named in his honor.

According to the Boston Globe, two dozen of Mr. Liebling’s students became professional photographers and filmmakers, winning Academy, Emmy and Peabody awards for their work, including documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who told the paper, “The teaching was not so much the work in class–though his classes were fantastic–as the work of life.”

Jerome Liebling, Socially Conscious Documentary Photographer, Dies at 87