George Rodger • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos

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"You must feel an affinity for what you are photographing. You must be part of it, and yet remain sufficiently detached to see it objectively. Like watching from the audience a play you already know by heart"

- George Rodger

b. 1908

d. 1995


Founding member

Born in Cheshire, George Rodger served in the British Merchant Navy. After a short spell in America, he worked as a photographer for the BBC’s The Listener magazine, followed in 1938 by a brief stint working for the Black Star Agency.

His pictures of the London blitz brought him to the attention of Life magazine, and he became a war correspondent. He won eighteen campaign medals covering Free French activities in West Africa, and went on to document the war front in Eritrea, Abyssinia and the Western Desert. He travelled to Iran, Burma, North Africa, Sicily and Salerno, Italy, where he met and befriended Robert Capa.

Having covered the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland, Rodger was the first photographer to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April 1945. In May, he photographed the German surrender at Lüneburg for Time and Life. Traumatized by the experience of looking for ‘nice compositions’ in front of the dead, Rodger embarked on a 28,000-mile journey all over Africa and the Middle East, focusing on animal life, rituals, and ways of life that exist in a close relationship with nature.

In 1947 Rodger was invited to join Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Seymour and William Vandivert in founding Magnum. His next major trip was a Cape-to-Cairo trans-Africa journey, during which he made extraordinary pictures of the Kordofan Nuba tribe which first appeared in National Geographic in 1951. Africa remained a preoccupation for him for over thirty years.

Enormously successful during his lifetime, George Rodger died in Kent on 24 July 1995.


1921/25 St. Bee’s College, Cumbria, UK


1993 Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society
1993 Honorary Fellow of Kent Institute of Art and Design, 1993
1985 First Prize at Peace in the World exhibition in Moscow, U.S.S.R. (now Russia)


2004 Retrospective – Photo Gallery International, Tokyo, Japan
2004 The African Photographs (with Ian Berry) – Brunei Gallery, London, UK
2000/01 George Rodger Retrospective – Doisneau Gallery, Paris, France; Barry Singer
Gallery, Petaluma, Ca, USA; Leica Gallery, New York, USA
1999 Village of the Nubas – Focus Gallery, London, UK
1999 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Santa Monica, California (exhibition with Peter Rodger)
1998 Amnesty International Speech in Honour of George Rodger – The Photographers’
Gallery Print Room, London, UK
1996 A Photographic Journey – Birmingham Art Gallery, Birmingham, UK
1996 The African Photographs – National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
1996 La Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France
1996 George Rodger, Photographer – Kent Library, Ashford, Kent, UK
1994 Lichtbild Gallery, Bremen, Germany; University of Kent; Royal Photographic
Society, Bath, UK
1993 Kent Institute of Art and Design, Maidstone and Rochester, UK; Vision Gallery, San Francisco, USA
1992 Winston Churchill: Britain at War – Churchill House, London, UK
1991 Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK; Guillaume Gallozzi Gallery, New York, USA
1990 Le Port, Réunion Island, Africa
1990 The Blitz – Picto at Bastille, Paris, France; National Museum of Film, Photographyand TV, Bradford, UK; Navy Museum, Washington D.C., USA
1990 Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, France; Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi, Belgium; Astley- Cheetham Gallery, Stalybridge, UK; Stockport Arts Center, Manchester, UK
1989 Oriel Clywd, Wrexham, Wales; Bolton Art Gallery, Bolton, UK; Wakefield Art
Gallery, Wakefield, UK
1988 Mid-Pennine Arts, Burnely, UK; Metropole, Folkestone, Kent, UK; Anthropological Museum, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
1987 Photographers’ Gallery, London
1986 Cyprus National Bank, Nicosia and Limasso, Cyprus
1986 Fifty Photos from the 50s – Amsterdam Foto, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1984/86 Tribal Africa – FNAC Montparnasse, Paris; Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts,
Dunkerque, France; Magnum Gallery, Paris, France; Espace Image Gallery,
Marseille, France; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angouléme, France
1982 London Faces the Blitz – Photogallery, St Leonard’s-on-Sea, UK
1982 Contrast Gallery, London, UK
1979 The Photographers’ Gallery, London, UK; FNAC, Montparnasse, Paris, France
1978 Tribal Africa – University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
1975 Photographer for Life – Canterbury City Library, Canterbury, UK
1974 Photographers’ Gallery, London


1999 George Rodger, Photographic Voyager (text by Carroll Naggar and Barry Singer),
Barry Singer Gallery, USA)
1997 George Rodger: The African Photographs (text by Bruce Bernard), The British
Council, UK
1994/99 Humanity and Inhumanity: The Photographic Journey of George Rodger (text by Bruce Bernard), Phaidon, USA
1990/91 The Blitz: The Photography of George Rodger, Viking, UK/E Rutherford: Penguin, USA
1987 George Rodger, Magnum Opus: Fifty Years in Photojournalism, Dirk Nishen,
UK and Germany
1975 World of the Horse (with Judith Campbell), Octopus and Ridge Press, UK/USA
1974 George Rodger, Gordon Fraser/Arts Council of Great Britain, UK
1955/99 Village of the Nubas, Delpire, France/Phaidon, UK
1944 Desert Journey, The Cresset Press, UK
1943 Red Moon Rising, The Cresset Press, UK
1943 Far on the Ringing Plains, The Macmillan Company, USA


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