Thomas Abercrombie: A Photographer and Much More
LIANE HANSEN, host:
National Geographic magazine photographer, Thomas J. Abercrombie, died earlier this week of complications from open heart surgery at the age of 75.
He began his career at the magazine in 1956, and remained for 38 years.
Former National Geographic editor in chief Bill Garrett was there at the start of Abercrombie's career. He says he knew immediately that Abercrombie had the right stuff.
Mr. BILL GARRETT (Former National Geographic Editor in Chief): First of all, he was a fantastic photographer, and also he was a very good writer. And he worked the two together, and that was hard to do.
HANSEN: Abercrombie's work for National Geographic sent him and his cameras around the globe. Bill Garrett says his other talents were just right for the job.
Mr. GARRETT: And he was a diver, and he was a pilot. He dove with Jacques Cousteau. He flew up to Alaska for assignments. He was an all-around guy.
HANSEN: Abercrombie won a Newspaper Photographer of the Year award, as ell as a Magazine Photographer of the Year award. He was the first photographer to receive both honors.
One of his most famous photos was shot in 1965, in Mecca. Abercrombie captured a quarter of a million Muslims gathered at the sacred Kabba from an aerial view. He described the incandescent blue in the photo as an image of cosmic motion. He made four trips to Mecca, and became enthralled with the Middle East and Islam. He later learned to read the Koran and Arabic and became a Muslim.
Bob Gilka was a picture editor for National Geographic during Abercrombie's tenure at the magazine. He said what set Abercrombie apart was his vast and varied knowledge.
Mr. BOB GILKA (Picture Editor, National Geographic): He was a true professional and really, I know it's old fashioned to use the term, but he was a true Renaissance man.
HANSEN: Abercrombie was also known as an excellent woodworker. At the end of his life, he was building a 26 foot skipjack boat. Gilka says this is just another example of his well-rounded personality.
Mr. GILKA: He was that kind of a complete person that made him so attractive to so many people, and friends of so many people.
HANSEN: National Geographic photographer Thomas Abercrombie died at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is survived by his two children and his wife, Marilyn, also a photographer for National Geographic.
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