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Paul Fusco: 1930 – 2020

Magnum member Paul Fusco died on July 15th, 2020

Paul Fusco

Paul Fusco A portrait of Magnum photographer Paul Fusco editing photographs. USA. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos

Thoughts from a number of Paul Fusco’s fellow Magnum photographers can be read below.

Paul Fusco worked as a photographer with the United States Army Signal Corps in Korea from 1951 to 1953, before studying photojournalism at Ohio University, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1957. He moved to New York City and started his career as a staff photographer with Look, where he remained until 1971.

In this role he produced important reportages on social issues in the US, including the plight of destitute miners in Kentucky; Latino ghetto life in New York City; cultural experimentation in California; African-American life in the Mississippi Delta; religious proselytizing in the South; and migrant laborers. He also worked in England, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, and made an extended study of the Iron Curtain countries, from northern Finland to Iran.

Paul Fusco The California Grape Strike. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco The California Grape Strike. California. USA. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco | -scaled.jpg California Grape Strike. Imperial Valley. California. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Cesar Chavez, leader of the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), picketing outside of a farm to urge workers to join in the fight for better wages and workers' rights. California. USA. 1966. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos

In March of 1966 the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (a merger of the National Farm Workers Association, or NFWA, and the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, or AWOC), called a strike against California grape producers who refused to recognize the union, which was also a protest against years of poor pay and working conditions. César Chávez – founder of NFWA along with Dolores Huerta – led 75 farm workers on a 340-mile march from Delano to Sacramento. Fusco documented these and later agricultural strikes and boycotts in the state extensively.

In 1968 – on commission for Look – Fusco travelled across the United States on the funeral train of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy – following his assassination. Of the assassination Fusco said,  “The blow was monumental. Hope-on-the-rise had again been shattered and those in most need of hope crowded the tracks of Bobby’s last train, stunned into disbelief, and watched that hope trapped in a coffin pass and disappear from their lives.” This work – a series of photos of track-side mourners – became his book RFK Funeral Train – a portrait of a nation in mourning.

Paul Fusco Robert Kennedy funeral train. Philadelphia, PA. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Robert Kennedy funeral train. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Robert Kennedy funeral train. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Robert Kennedy funeral train. Harmans, MD. USA. 1968. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos

After Look closed down, Fusco approached Magnum Photos, becoming an associate in 1973 and a full member the following year. His photography has been published widely in major US magazines including TIME, Life, Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones and Psychology Today, as well as in other publications worldwide.

Among his best-known later subjects was his work in San Francisco’s Ambassador Hotel. Run by Hank Wilson, the Ambassador opened its doors to many of the city’s poorest and most marginalized citizens. As the AIDS crisis unfolded in the1980s many of the hotel’s residents fell ill. Fusco documented the hotel management, healthcare workers, and volunteers’ efforts to support and care for the hotel’s residents, many of whom were unable to travel to nearby clinics or hospitals.

Paul Fusco AIDS at the Ambassador Hotel. James has been living with AIDS since 1985. He moved into the hotel three years ago - it's the longest time he has lived anywhere. San Francisco. USA. 1993. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco AIDS at the Ambassador Hotel. Dr. Black examines Art in his room. San Francisco. USA. 1993.

© Paul Fusco/Magnum Photos © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco AIDS at the Ambassador Hotel. Andy and his lover of ten years moved into the Ambassador 3 years ago. Recently his lover moved to another room. Andy is alone now and trying to be positive about le (...)

Fusco also pursued projects on the welfare system in New York, and the 1994 Zapatista uprising in the Mexican state of Chiapas. He  also pursued a long-term project documenting Belarussian children and adults sickened by radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl explosion.

Paul Fusco Comandate Marcos in a Zapatista village. 1994. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco Feliciana makes tortillas, a major part of their diet. Aguacantenango. Chiapas. Mexico 1994. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco A "Black Fiesta" celebrant makes sexual innuendos to a villager. Aguacantenango. 1994. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos
Paul Fusco An attendent bathes a helpless four-year-old child with multiple sclerosis. Children's Home #1, Minsk. Belarus. 1997. © Paul Fusco | Magnum Photos

Here we share a statement from the president of Magnum Photos, Olivia Arthur, and thoughts from Fusco’s fellow Magnum photographers Peter van Agtmael, Bruce Davidson, Gilles Peress, and Eli Reed on the occasion of Paul’s death.

It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of our great colleague and friend Paul Fusco. Paul has been a member of the Magnum community since 1973 and will be remembered by his colleagues for his incredible kindness, and the deep sensitivity and humanity that he brought to his photography.

Empathising with his subjects, and photographing them with much respect, Paul covered stories ranging from police brutality in New York to the long-term effects of the Chernobyl disaster and people living with AIDS in California. In 1968 he photographed the spectators lined along the route of  Bobby Kennedy’s funeral train from New York to Washington, capturing the emotion of the nation and becoming one of the most celebrated series of photographs of the time.

Magnum Photographers from across the generations remember him for the inspiration his work gave them as well as his generosity within the community.  His presence will be missed and his legacy will be remembered.

Olivia Arthur

The depth and commitment of his work has always been an inspiration, and of course Funeral Train remains one of the most remarkable works on the United States ever made.

Peter van Agtmael

Dear Paul, For our generation, you were truly the artist who defined the humanistic view and for me, really exemplified the creative spirit of Magnum.  I will always remember your kindness and gentle spirit.

Bruce Davidson

There are few words to describe Paul: kind beyond kind, humane beyond what humane can be.

Gilles Peress

Paul is, and will always be, in my heart and mind, the kind of human being that I think of as the best of what a human can be. A wonderful caring human being who happens to be a photographer. He is the best of us who speak with our respective approaches of capturing this world that we live in for a while.

Eli Reed

Magnum Collection The american photographer Paul Fusco. © Magnum Collection | Magnum Photos