British, b. 1908 - d.1995
Born in Hale, Cheshire, to a family of Scottish ancestry, George Rodger was a self-taught photographer who at first wanted to be a writer and had an urge to document the world as it was.
After his studies at St. Bees College (1921-25), served in the British Merchant Navy. By 1929 he had been around the world three times but had never seen London.
After a difficult period in the United States under the Great Depression, Rodger worked as a photographer for the BBC (1936-38), then briefly for the Black Star Agency, publishing his pictures in Tattler, Sketch, Bystander, and the Illustrated London News.
His pictures of the London Blitz brought him attention from Life magazine and from 1939 to 1945 he was a Life war correspondent. He covered Free French activities in West Africa, winning 18 campaign medals for his courage, then the war front in Eritrea, Abyssinia, and the Western Desert, ended up in Iran and Burma and traveled to North Africa ,Sicily and Salerno, Italy, where he met and befriended Robert Capa.
After his coverage of the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland, Rodger was the first photographer to enter Bergen-Belsen in April, 1945. He photographed the concentration camp for Time and Life then the German surrender at Luneburg in May.
After his traumatic experience of looking for "nice compositions" in front of the dead, Rodger decided that he did not want to be a war photographer or to photograph violence in any form. Disappointed by his post-war assignments at Time-Life he got himself fired and embarked on a 28,000-mile journey all over Africa and the Middle East, progressively concentrating on animal life, rituals and ways of life in close relationship with nature.
In 1947 Rodger was invited to be one of the founding members of Magnum with Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour and Bill Vandivert. His next major trip was a Cape-to-Cairo journey where he made extraordinary pictures of the Kordofan Nuba tribe. They first appeared in National Geographic (1951), then were published in Village des Noubas(1955) with Rodger's own text.
From the 1950s to 1980 Rodger made more than fifteen expeditions to Africa. His assignments included People Are People the World Over, Generation Children, a group project inspired by Capa (1954), then assignments for Standard Oil Company and Esso in the Middle East, Africa and Ethiopia. His reportages in color on the Sahara, the Tuaregs, and animal life, with texts by his wife, journalist Jinx Rodger, were published in National Geographic.
In 1970 Rodger became a Magnum contributor. In 1975, 1977 and 1980 he returned to Africa on British Arts Council Bursaries and photographed circumcision rituals of the Masai Moran that had never been witnessed by a white man.
His work has been extensively exhibited in Europe and he has received numerous awards and Honorary Doctorates.
Red Moon Rising, 1943
Desert Journey, 1944
Village of the Nubas, 1955 (rep. 1999)
Le Sahara, 1957
George Rodger, 1974
George Rodger en Afrique ( G.R. In Africa), 1984
George Rodger, Magnum Opus: Fifty Years in Photojournalism, 1987
The Blitz: The Photography of George Rodger, 1990
Humanity and Inhumanity. The Photographic Journey of George Rodger. Text by Bruce Bernard. Picture research by Peter Marlow. Foreword by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Phaidon, London, 1994.
Georger Rodger: The African Photographs Text by Bruce Bernard. Photographs and captions by George Rodger. The British Council, London, 1997.
George Rodger Photographic Voyage. Text by Carroll Naggar and Barry Singer. Photographs by George Rodger.
George Rodger: Humanity and Inhumanity, 1994, rep. 1999