Stan­ley Greene, a one­time Black Pan­ther, be­came a pho­to­jour­nal­ist in many of the world’s hot spots.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MATT SCHUDEL matt.schudel@wash­

Stan­ley Greene, a one­time Black Pan­ther who be­came a cel­e­brated in­ter­na­tional pho­to­jour­nal­ist, por­tray­ing war, poverty and dis­as­ter in Chech­nya, Afghanistan, Iraq and the U.S. Gulf Coast af­ter Hur­ri­cane Katrina, died May 19 at a Paris hospi­tal. He was 68.

He had com­pli­ca­tions from hepati­tis, which led to liver can­cer, said a friend and col­league, Kadir van Lo­huizen.

In his youth, Mr. Greene dab­bled in rad­i­cal politics and spent time in a psy­chi­atric hospi­tal be­fore be­com­ing an as­sis­tant to the ac­claimed pho­to­jour­nal­ist W. Eu­gene Smith in the early 1970s.

Mr. Greene chron­i­cled the punk rock scene in San Francisco in the 1970s and early 1980s be­fore mov­ing to Paris, where he worked as a fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher.

“I was a dilet­tante,” he told Newsweek in 2004, “sit­ting in cafes, tak­ing pic­tures of girls and do­ing heroin.”

His ca­reer in pho­to­jour­nal­ism be­gan as “an ac­ci­dent” at age 40, he said, when he was on as­sign­ment in East Ber­lin late in 1989, at the very mo­ment the Ber­lin Wall was breached. His pho­to­graph of a young woman in a tutu atop the wall was reprinted all over the world. She was above the scrawled phrase “Kisses to All,” wav­ing a bot­tle of cham­pagne as guards de­scended on her.

Inspired by the ex­am­ple of Smith, Robert Capa and other pho­to­jour­nal­ists, Mr. Greene dis­cov­ered his vo­ca­tion.

“I hon­estly be­lieve pho­tog­ra­phy is 75 chance and 25 per­cent skill,” he said in a 2012 talk in Char­lottesville “In ac­ci­dents, we re­ally dis­cover the magic of pho­tog­ra­phy.”

He kicked his drug habit and trav­eled the world, a strik­ing fig­ure in his black leather jacket and sun­glasses, ac­cented with scarves, rings, bracelets and a ban­doleer of film can­is­ters across his chest.

“He was very charis­matic,” van Lo­huizen said in an in­ter­view. “Peo­ple would melt for him be­cause there was in­tegrity in his eyes.”

Over the years, Mr. Greene took his cameras to Croa­tia, Kash­mir, Afghanistan and Le­banon. He cov­ered geno­cide in Rwanda and strife in Azer­bai­jan, Iraq and Syria.

In Mali in the early 1990s, he saw chil­dren dy­ing of star­va­tion as flies crawled across their faces.

“I pho­tographed them as I would a fash­ion model,” Mr. Greene later wrote.

He was un­happy with the re­sults, “but they taught me a les­son,” he told Newsweek in 2004. “You have to take pho­to­graphs from the heart and not from the head.”

His as­sign­ments of­ten put him in dan­ger. In 1993, he was the only West­ern jour­nal­ist in­side the Rus­sian par­lia­ment build­ing when it came un­der siege dur­ing a vi­o­lent coup at­tempt that left al­most 200 peo­ple dead.

“The fact that I thought I was go­ing to die gave me courage,” Mr. Greene told the New York Times pho­tog­ra­phy blog Lens in 2010. “Courage is con­trol of fear. I think that this in­ci­dent is the one that steeled me.”

He trav­eled more than 20 times to Chech­nya, where he chron­i­cled the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Rus­sian troops as they bat­tled sep­a­ratists in the former Soviet republic.

“There are sto­ries that get to you so deeply that you have to get them out — and this was mine,” Mr. Greene told the Times.

His 2003 book, “Open Wound: Chech­nya 1994 to 2003,” con­tain­ing 81 pho­to­graphs and an ac­com­pa­ny­ing text, was “a tes­ta­ment to the fact that pho­tog­ra­phy’s moral force is alive and well,” Toronto Star for­eign cor­re­spon­dent Olivia Ward wrote in 2004.

Mr. Greene was one of the few West­ern jour­nal­ists in Fal­lu­jah, Iraq, in 2004, when four U.S. contractors were killed. Their bod­ies were burned and then hung from a bridge.

“We need to see it be­cause it’s re­al­ity,” he told the Times. “If we can’t stom­ach watch­ing our men and women be­ing killed in these situations, then we shouldn’t send them there to be killed in such grue­some ways. We can’t have it both ways.”

Shortly af­ter Hur­ri­cane Katrina flooded New Or­leans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, Mr. Greene was there to pho­to­graph the phys­i­cal and psy­chic dam­age. He re­turned for the next five years, show­ing how the lives of thou­sands of peo­ple had been for­ever changed.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher, Mr. Greene was a clas­si­cist of the old school: He pre­ferred work­ing in film, us­ing Le­ica and Nikon cameras, and he de­tested the dig­i­tal ma­nip­u­la­tion of images. His com­po­si­tion tech­niques were drawn from his ear­lier study of paint­ing.

But as a jour­nal­ist who en­tered war zones and pho­tographed the des­ti­tute and dy­ing, Mr. Greene said he didn’t pre­tend to have im­par­tial neu­tral­ity in pho­tograph­ing his sub­jects.

“I have been ac­cused of hav­ing lost my ob­jec­tiv­ity,” he told Newsweek. “But when you sit on a fence and watch geno­cide with­out do­ing any­thing about it, you are as guilty as those who are com­mit­ting it.”

Stan­ley Nor­man Greene Jr. was born Feb. 14, 1949, in Brook­lyn. Both of his par­ents were ac­tors and so­cial ac­tivists. His fa­ther, who was black­listed for his po­lit­i­cal be­liefs in the 1950s, had roles in the films “For Love of Ivy” and “The Wiz.”

The younger Mr. Greene “was that kid my par­ents told me to stay away from,” he said in 2008. He par­tic­i­pated in an­ti­war demon­stra­tions and joined the Black Pan­thers, later sheep­ishly ad­mit­ting, “I was at­tracted to the Pan­thers by the berets and leather jack­ets.”

Be­cause of drug and be­hav­ioral prob­lems, he spent two years in a psy­chi­atric fa­cil­ity in his teens.

In the early 1970s, he be­came an as­sis­tant to Smith, whose pho­to­graphic es­says in Life mag­a­zine and other pub­li­ca­tions are con­sid­ered land­marks of the form.

Mr. Greene later moved to San Francisco, where he stud­ied paint­ing at the San Francisco Art In­sti­tute, re­ceiv­ing a mas­ter’s de­gree in 1980. While there, he pho­tographed the city’s thriv­ing mu­sic scene and its equally thriv­ing drug un­der­world.

He briefly worked at News­day — “I was con­stantly do­ing del­i­catessen open­ings” — be­fore quit­ting and mov­ing to Paris in 1986.

In 2007, Mr. Greene, van Lo­huizen and other pho­tog­ra­phers launched the Am­s­ter­dam-based Noor photo agency.

Mr. Greene’s pho­tog­ra­phy ap­peared in many of the world’s best-known mag­a­zines, but he of­ten had to fi­nance his trav­els from his own shal­low pocket.

“I live from hand to mouth,” he told the Times in 2010. “Let’s be real here. I don’t own an apart­ment. I don’t own a house. I don’t own a car. I don’t have any stocks and bonds. All I own are my cameras.”

Mr. Greene, who was mar­ried at least twice, had nu­mer­ous girl­friends over the years but no chil­dren. Sur­vivors in­clude a brother.

Mr. Greene re­ceived five World Press Photo awards, among other hon­ors, and in 2010 pub­lished a pho­to­graphic mem­oir, “Black Pass­port.” He of­ten spoke at in­ter­na­tional pho­tog­ra­phy con­fer­ences.

In re­cent years, he had doc­u­mented the en­vi­ron­men­tal and hu­man cost of the dig­i­tal age, trav­el­ing to Nige­ria, In­dia, China and Pak­istan, where peo­ple sal­vaged dis­carded elec­tronic de­vices from waste dumps. He said he was not in­ter­ested in quick-hit pho­tog­ra­phy but pre­ferred deep­im­mer­sion as­sign­ments in which he could ex­plore com­plex vis­ual tales.

“I think at the end of the day, we have to be sto­ry­tellers,” Mr. Greene told Ital­ian Vogue mag­a­zine in 2013. “Yeah, I think that you have to be ob­sessed.”



LEFT: Work­ing in Chech­nya in 1995, Stan­ley Greene pho­tographed the out­line of a body, removed af­ter a snow­fall. ABOVE: Greene of­ten re­vis­ited places he worked. In 2001, he re­turned to Chech­nya, pho­tograph­ing a woman whose child died in the fight­ing there.


Stan­ley Greene

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