Documentary, News

Remembering Marc Riboud, who has died at age 93

Image Marc Riboud © Bruno Barbey, courtesy Magnum Photos

We look back on the life of Marc Riboud, the iconic French photographer and Magnum associate since the 1950s, passed away yesterday at the age of 93 after a long illness.

In Washington D.C., the capital of America, in the summer 1967, Jan Rose Kasmir, a Vietnam War protester, stood infront of a row of National Guard servicemen outside the Pentagon. The soldiers would not have looked out of place on the frontlines of a world war – hardhats on, their rifles lowered, bayonets fixed.

Kasmir, in a flowing tye dye dress which is such a part of the 60s hippy movement, was smiling, holding a flower out towards them. It became one of the most seen photographs of the twentieth century.

The creator of the image, a French photographer called Marc Riboud, died on August 30, 2016, just over 49 years, to the day, since that picture of Jan Rose Kasmir was taken.

Riboud passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 93.

Riboud was on of the earliest members of Magnum Photos. He joined in 1953, before the photo agency had a proper membership process.

Born in 1923, in Saint-Genis-Laval near Lyon, France, Riboud took his first images in 1937, at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, using a small Vest Pocket Kodak given to him by his father on his 14th birthday.

During World War II, Riboud joined the Resistance, and after the war, studied engineering before deciding to become a photographer.

His well-known photograph of a painter on the Eiffel Tower appeared in Life Magazine in 1953, his first publication, which prompted an invitation from Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa to join Magnum Photos.

In the 1960s, he covered the USSR, the wars for independence in Algeria and Sub-Saharan Africa and both South and North Vietnam, one of the rare photographers allowed entry.

In 1955, Riboud traveled by road through the Middle East and Afghanistan to India. Riboud lived in India for a year before continuing to journey eastwards, from Calcutta to China. Finally, arriving in Japan, he started work on his first book, Women of Japan.

In 1963, he photographed Fidel Castro after the Cuban leader turned up in his hotel room. The resulting pictures were published around the world, cementing Riboud’s reputation.

Riboud published over 30 books throughout his career. They included series covering the Cultural Revolution in China, Tibet, Japan, as well as classic street scenes of life in Paris. His photographs of anti-Vietnam War protests in Washington, D.C. were also made into a monograph.

Fellow Magnum member Patrick Zachmann, whose documentarian work on China was recently published in So Long, China, says:  “One image springs to mind: that of my first meeting with Marc in a CAAC airplane (the Chinese air company), which brought us both to Bejing.

“I was 27 years old, a young independent photographer, and this was my first trip to China. I took a couple of pictures in the plane and a Westerner, sitting in economy class, intrigued, asked me who I was and what I was doing. This was Marc Riboud.

“I was impressed. We sympathized and he gave me some useful advice for a young ‘long-nose’ arriving in China. ‘Do not get impatient with your Chinese interlocutors, stay calm and never let them lose face,’ he told me. That was how I met Marc.”

Marc Riboud has received numerous awards throughout his career, including two prizes from the Overseas Press Club, the ICP Infinity Award and the Nadar Prize for his book Into the Orient, published by Xavier Barral.

He donated 192 original prints made between 1953 and 1977 to the National Museum of Modern Art (Centre Georges Pompidou), in Paris.

“Marc’s association with Magnum has been a long and fruitful one,” said Magnum Photos President, Martin Parr. “He was a terrific photographer and of particular note was his pioneering work in China, which he first visited in the late 1950’s, and continued to photograph over the next three decades. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family.”

See more of his images here.