George Rodger

(1908 - 1995) British


George Rodger began photographing while in the British merchant marine, under whose auspices he traveled around the world twice between 1927 and 1929. Subsequently he worked in America as a machinist, wool-buyer, steel-rigger and in other occupations before returning to England in 1936. There he worked for the BBC and freelanced for the Black Star agency, before joining the staff of LIFE in 1939. As a war correspondent for the magazine during World War II, he traveled some 75,000 miles throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India, and covered the Japanese invasion of Burma, the North African and Italian campaigns, the D-Day assault, and the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp, and other events. Much of his epic journey was published as an eight-page story in the August 1942 issue of LIFE. After the war, Rodger wished to reject the intense destruction and violence he had witnessed, and stopped working for LIFE. In 1947 he joined Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Chim (David Seymour) in founding the international cooperative photography agency Magnum, and established himself as the group's correspondent for Africa. He participated in many exhibitions during his career, including Masai Moran in 1979, which presented photographs that he made during his return to Africa at the age of seventy.
Although Rodger originally viewed photography as a supplement to his documentary writing, he came to accept the descriptive value and emotional force of the medium as vital to his stories. In order to represent his experiences accurately, he committed himself to producing straight, unmanipulated photographs that he described as "honest and true." As one of the first European photographers to produce extensive reportage in Africa during the immediate postwar years, Rodger made photographs that provided Westerners access to an unfamiliar but increasingly important area of the world.
Lisa Hostetler

Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 226.
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