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Marvin Newman, sports and street photographer, dies at 95

Marvin Newman, a renowned photographer who brought a quirky, artistic eye to capturing shadows on a Chicago main street, people in front of shuttered storefronts on Coney Island in New York City, and athletes in competition, including Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski smashing the 1960 World Series-winning home run, died Sept. 13 at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was 95.

His son, Harrison, confirmed the death.

Mr. Newman, whose pictures were published in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Life, Look, Smithsonian, Esquire and Newsweek, was adept in many ways, as a street photographer, a portraitist, an expert at capturing sports action and a creator of inventive images.


In 1951, while he was studying for his master’s degree in photography at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, he watched passersby on Michigan Avenue creating ghostlike shadows.

“I photographed the people coming at me,” he told The New York Times in 2016. A child wheeling a little stroller. A mother and daughter holding hands. Nuns. A dog. Four women whose figures seemed to be billowing in the wind.

They looked otherworldly.

“The sidewalk lines give a very good feeling of composition,” he added. “It takes it a little bit beyond just a simple shadow on a white surface.”

In 1952, after earning his master’s, Mr. Newman headed to Coney Island, where he observed people bundled up in hats and coats in the harsh, brilliant winter sun. They were not the summer season’s revelers, but the area’s permanent residents. Some stood or sat in front of stores and attractions closed until spring.

“Why are these people just sitting there doing nothing?” he recalled in an interview with The Guardian in 2017. “Why does that man have a reflector under his face?”

He captured them under shabby signs that advertised “Photos While U Wait,” “Brighton Bowl” and “Frankfurters Knishes.”


“I wanted to change the world with my photographs — show the well-off the underclass — where they lived, how they lived, what they did,” he said.

He began working at Sports Illustrated soon after it began publishing in 1954 and went on to take memorable photos of stars such as Muhammad Ali, New York Yankees player Mickey Mantle and Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, including one well-known shot of his players carrying him off the field after the team won the 1961 NFL championship.

Mr. Newman was in an aisle, along the first base line at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh during Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates, when Bill Mazeroski came to the plate with the score tied at 9-9 in the bottom of the ninth inning.

When Mazeroski crushed the second pitch off Ralph Terry for a home run, one of the most significant in baseball history, Mr. Newman shot a picture that told the story of the moment in nearly all its details: the follow-through of Mazeroski’s swing; the ball in flight toward left-center field; the Yankees’ third baseman Gil McDougald in his crouch; the scoreboard showing the tie; umpires standing along the third-base line; the clock reading 3:35 p.m.; and the trees and buildings beyond the ballpark.

“I was one aisle over from Marvin, and it never dawned on me to go wide,” Neil Leifer, who was photographing the series for Dell Sports magazine, and who would become a celebrated Sports Illustrated photographer, said in a phone interview. “Marvin was a great photojournalist. I had a wonderful picture of Mazeroski following through, but it looked like everyone else’s. Marvin’s was a picture that didn’t need a caption.”


Marvin Elliott Newman was born Dec. 5, 1927, in the Bronx. His father, Irving, was a baker in a family business, and his mother, Mary (Rotker) Newman, worked there as well.

Marvin, who did not want to be a baker, entered Brooklyn College when he was 16 and embarked on an artistic path: He took courses with photographers Berenice Abbott and Walter Rosenblum and painter-sculptor Burgoyne Diller. He also attended classes at the Photo League, a left-leaning, socially conscious collective, before graduating from Brooklyn with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1949. He also played on the school’s football and track teams.

He hitchhiked to Chicago to attend the Institute of Design, where he studied photography with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind and did work for the Hull House, the settlement house where he documented families as they arrived from the South.

His senior project was a short film, “The Church on Maxwell Street” (1951), made with another student at the institute, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, that focused on the singing and dancing at a church outdoor revival meeting.

Soon after Mr. Newman received his master’s and returned to New York, some of his shadow photos were included in an exhibition of 25 young photographers, “Always the Young Strangers,” at the Museum of Modern Art in early 1953.


Howard Greenberg, whose Manhattan gallery represents Mr. Newman, said by phone: “Marvin came out of the classic mode of midcentury freelancers who did a lot of different work to make a living. But he was different than most. His background was art. He thought he was going to be a sculptor.”

Mr. Newman was probably best known for his work at Sports Illustrated. But his diverse portfolio includes photographs for Playboy, including 1962’s “A Toast to Bikinis”; for Esquire, of Wall Street; for Look, of President John F. Kennedy’s funeral, including an image of his widow, Jacqueline, her face covered by a veil, standing beside his brother Robert; and for Newsweek, of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

He also worked with Time/Life Books and advertising agencies.

His books include “The Color of Sweden” (1966), “Africa’s Animals” (1967) and volumes about baseball, “Yankee Colors: The Glory Years of the Mantle Era” (2009 and with text by Al Silverman) and “The Classic Mantle” (2012 and with text by Buzz Bissinger).

His career was commemorated in a limited edition, oversize book, “Marvin E. Newman,” published by Taschen in 2017.

In addition to Harrison, Mr. Newman is survived by his wife and Harrison’s mother, Dr. Brigitte (Genin) Newman; a daughter, Nadja Morin, from his second marriage, to Marja Loukkola, which ended in divorce; three grandchildren; and a sister, Suzanne Levy. His first marriage, to Julia Scully, a former editor of Modern Photography magazine who died last month, also ended in divorce.


One of Mr. Newman’s most famous pictures is one he took for Sports Illustrated in the Texas Christian University locker room before the 1957 Cotton Bowl against Syracuse University. There is no action, barely a hint of movement, just players and staff members sitting on chairs or on the floor, anticipating the start of the game (which TCU won, 28-27). Coach Abe Martin, in a fedora, is the only one standing.

In an appraisal of the photograph in Sports Illustrated in 1999, Gary Smith wrote that it represented what sports are most about — "the moments before, the times when a person takes a flashlight to his soul and inspects himself for will and courage and spirit."

Mr. Newman said he knew the picture was special.

“When photography works well, you can go inside the psyche of the people in the picture,” he said. “You can see beyond the moment.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.