Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Brian Lanker Dreamt a World

Brian Lanker died recently. He was 63 years old. I came to know of him as an extraordinary photojournalist through his book, "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America."

I did not know Mr. Lanker personally. Yet, having been touched by his book, I was saddened to know that such a compassionate and caring man had died.

He must have have a special understanding of women. After all, his Pulitzer Prize for feature photography was his photo titled, "Moment of Life." It captured the moment just after the birth of a baby and the look of delight on the mother's face.

Lanker had to have been an empathetic man. He said that he came to understand the "double minority" of black women after reading "The Color Purple." Then, when he heard Barbara Jordan (1936-1996),the first Southern black woman elected to the House of Representatives, give the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic Convention, he said, "You're the one who belongs in the White House."

Like Barbara Jordan, many black women had overcome daunting odds. Lanker wanted to acknowledge their accomplishments. He received a two-year grant from Eastman-Kodak to photograph and quote 75 black women. Some were well-known - many were unsung heroines.

The exhibition of Lanker's photographs of the women debuted at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to record attendance. His book proved so popular that it is now in its 14th printing.

Thank you, Brian Lanker, for creating a homage to courageous women and for using your talents in the name of kindness, compassion and a strong sense of justice.


  1. I know that book. It was quite a few years ago, but I remember it vividly. There were so many heroic black women - some I'd never heard of before. Jayne

  2. An amazing person. Was there something or someone in his background that gave him such insight? sz

  3. Hi SZ,

    I don't know about his family of birth. Beyond the two issues I mentioned in the blog, his wife had a nanny when she was growing up. She spoke often and fondly of her. Eventually the nanny was invited for a visit and the Lankers remained very close to her. That's the only personal experience I know that influenced him. Anyone?

  4. Thanks for sharing this. I found this link:

  5. Very nice tribute. Thank you. Connie