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Steve Schapiro (born 1934 in New York) is an American photojournalist who captured the most important social events of the 1960s and 1970s. He is also famous for his film set photos (e.g. of the legendary movies The Godfather and Taxi Driver).
Steve Schapiro Biography
Steve Schapiro discovered his passion for photography at the age of nine. Soon he decided to devote himself to photojournalism. One of his role models at the time was the renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the “father” of photojournalism.
Steve Shapiro took lessons with William Eugene Smith, a very influential photographer during the Second World War. Smith taught him the necessary technical skills and showed him how to develop his own views of the world and of photography. Schapiro’s work clearly reflects the influence of his teacher.
In 1961 Schapiro started working as a freelance photographer. His photos were published in famous international magazines such as Life, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Time and Paris Match.
The political, cultural and social changes of the 1960s in the United States were a great inspiration for Schapiro. He accompanied Robert Kennedy during his presidential campaign and captured key moments of the Civil Rights Movement such as the March on Washington or the Selma to Montgomery March. Schapiro not only showed his talent in the fields of photojournalism and documentation, but also turned into a real activist. This is, for instance, clearly visible in his way of documenting the hard lives of immigrant workers from Arkansas he dealt with in 1961.
In the 1970s, Steve Schapiro focused more on film set photos. Having taken extraordinary film set photos of Midnight Cowboy (1968), among them also a famous one of Dustin Hoffman, he was hired as a photographer by Paramount Pictures. Projects like the movie The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola, one of the most important representatives of the “New Hollywood”, brought out the best of Schapiro. The star-studded cast consisting of actors like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall inspired him to take stunning photos. He captured unforgettable moments like “Marlon Brando and the Cat”.
Schapiro was also present at the film set of Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski’s homage to the “film noir”. Two years later, Schapiro was – by request of Robert De Niro – hired as a photographer of the film set of Martin Scorsese’s movie Taxi Driver, one of the most iconic films of the American cinema of the 1970s.
Steve Schapiro captured key moments of modern American history with his photos that also reflect his own social and human awareness. His name has become a reference in the field of photojournalism.
Schapiro’s photos always have a human and empathetic touch. They show how much he identifies with the social, political and cultural problems of his time. The artistic impact of his “master” William Eugene Smith is very obvious in Schapiro’s work.
Steve Schapiro, Steve Schapiro: American Edge, Arena, 2000.
Steve Schapiro, Schapiro’s Heroes, powerHouse Books, 2007.
Paul Duncan (ed.), Steve Schapiro, The Godfather Family Album, Taschen, 2010.
Lonnie Ali, Matthias Harder, Steve Schapiro, Steve Schapiro: Then and Now, Hatje Cantz, 2012.
Paul Duncan (ed.), Steve Schapiro, Taxi Driver, Taschen, 2013.