If you missed the big exhibition of Brian Lanker photographs earlier this year at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art — I did, too — Karin Clarke Gallery is giving you a second chance.
Clarke has mounted a show of 15 of the late photographer’s journalistic photos that were on display in the JSMA’s exhibition From the Heart.
Lanker, of course, was photo editor at The Register-Guard back in the day — far enough back, in fact, that he and I never met on the job there, though I got to know him as a photographer in town when I began covering the arts here. It’s hard for me to separate Lanker’s work, which is splendid, from his outsized personality, which could be both charming and trying.
He was one of a number of disciples of Rich Clarkson at the Topeka Capital-Journal. Other photographers Clarkson brought along there include Chris Johns, who would go on to become chief content officer for National Geographic; David Alan Harvey, of Magnum and Nat Geo; Susan Biddle, a White House photographer and staff photographer at the Washington Post; and Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford.
Lanker won a Pulitzer Prize for photography while still at the Capital-Journal for a series of photos he did on childbirth. Soon after, he came to Eugene to run the photo department in the days when newspapering was flush with money, and The Register-Guard decided it would be interesting to bring in a nationally recognized photographer to redesign the paper from bottom to top.
With his characteristic bluster and charm, Lanker did just that, and the RG quickly became know around the country for its extraordinary, at the time, use of color photography. Under Lanker’s guidance, photos ran big on the page — sometimes causing more-traditional word-oriented editors to complain that the tail had begun to wag the dog — and photographers came to be recognized in the newsroom as journalists in their own right, rather than mere adjuncts to reporters.
After leaving the RG, Lanker shot for numerous national publications, including Life and Sports Illustrated, while still living in Eugene with his wife, painter Lynda Lanker.
This small show at the Clarke gallery has some of Lanker’s best work over the years, most of it familiar. He got access to such celebrities as Muhammad Ali and Willie Nelson, James Beard and Mick Jagger. In Eugene, he photographed Ken Kesey and Steve Prefontaine.
My favorite work in the show is his older black and white images, such as this anonymous horse logger he shot in the Oregon woods.
The exhibit runs through September 24. A reception will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 10.