Leonard Freed was born into a humble Jewish family of Eastern European extraction in Brooklyn. He originally wanted to become an artist and attended the New School, where he studied with the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar, Alexey Brodovitch. It was in Brodovitch’s “design laboratory” that Freed discovered his true vocation. Freed was known primarily for his in-depth coverage of African-Americans in the era of the civil rights movement.

Ultimately photography is about who you are. It's the truth in relation to yourself

Leonard Freed
© Leonard Freed | Magnum Photos

Leonard Freed was born in Brooklyn, New York, to working-class Jewish parents of Eastern European descent. He initially wished to become a painter, but began taking photographs while in the Netherlands in 1953 and discovered that this was where his passion lay.

Working as a freelance photographer from 1961 onwards, Freed began to travel widely, photographing the black experience in America (1964-65), events in Israel (1967-68), the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and the New York City police department (1972-79). He also shot four films for Japanese, Dutch and Belgian television.

Freed joined Magnum in 1972. His coverage of the American civil rights movement brought him global attention, but he also produced major essays on Poland, Asian immigration in England, North Sea oil development, and Spain after Franco. Photography became Freed’s means of exploring societal violence and racial discrimination.

Leonard Freed died in 2006.

© Leonard Freed | Magnum Photos

Get Magnum news and updates directly to your inbox