Helen Marcus, a late-life photographer whose inspiring black-and-white portraits of literary figures and film and television personalities graced book jackets and magazine covers for decades, died Oct. 1 at her home in Manhattan. She was 97 years old.
His death was confirmed by his sister, Irene Feuerstein.
Photos of Ms. Marcus were circulated in various places. Some were seen in annual corporate reports, and one was the model of the engraving on a Swedish postage stamp in honor of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison. She also became a champion of her fellow professionals.
Her fame as a photographer, and her leadership role as defender of her profession on issues of copyright and credit, were all the more notable because the field was very much dominated by men at the time.
Ms. Marcus founded the New York chapter of the American Society of Magazine Photographers (later the American Society of Media Photographers) in 1982 and served as its national president from 1985 to 1990. From 1998 to 2007, she was its president. W. Eugene Smith Memorial FundAn organization named after the famous photojournalist, founded in 1979 to help independent photographers complete their projects.
Responding to a New York Times profile that credited Madison Avenue art director George Lois with designing the striking cover for Esquire magazine, Ms. Marcus complained in a letter to the editor in 2008 that the article attributed Carl Fischer to has not been adequately acknowledged. , the photographer whose images loom large in many of those designs.
He wrote, “It’s like publishing pictures of the Sistine Chapel and mentioning the Pope who paid for them, but not the painter.”
Helen Mae Marcus was born on October 28, 1925 in Manhattan. His mother, Augusta (Hitelman) Marcus, an immigrant from Russia, was a housewife. His father, Joseph, owned several shoe shops.
She graduated from Abby Davis High School in Mount Vernon, New York and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater and economics from Smith College in 1946.
In addition to his sister, he is survived by a brother, Carl. Another brother, Bernard, died before him.
After working with theater director Hal Prince, Ms. Marcus was an associate creator and producer from 1955 to 1974 at Goodson-Todman Productions, the company that produced “To Tell the Truth” and “What’s My Line?” Such popular television game shows were developed. ,
The director Ira Sketch, who shared an office with Ms. Marcus at Goodson-Todman, wrote in “I Remember Television: A,” “Her hobby was photography, and she became so skilled that she eventually considered a career as a professional. Gave up television.” Memoirs” (1989).
Once Ms. Marcus became a full-time photographer, her work appeared in Time, Forbes, Gourmet and other magazines, and The New York Times. His photographs are included in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the International Center of Photography.
She was among the first Americans invited to China in the wake of the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s. He taught at Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Ms. Marcus, who studied with Life magazine photographer Philip Halsman, became known for her vivid portraits. Among his subjects were the writers Mary Higgins Clark, Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe; actors Kitty Carlisle and Cliff Robertson; and talk-show host Merv Griffin.
In 1977, Toni Morrison was said to be dissatisfied with the author’s photograph on the jacket for one of her early books and was looking for another photographer for her next book. Her publisher’s publicist enlisted Ms. Marcus, who invited Ms. Morrison to her spacious apartment and shot four rolls of the author’s film while sitting at the dining room table.
When Ms. Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 and Swedish postal officials decided to honor her with a stamp, they suggested they contact Ms. Marcus. his photo inspired an engravingWhich appeared on the stamp (with credit to Ms. Marcus).
“It’s probably the most reproduced photograph I’ve ever made,” Ms. Marcus said in an interview. new letters Magazine in 2007.
He offered a different kind of sublime to the novelist Jerzy Kosinski, whom he photographed in his apartment above Carnegie Hall. She said, during that session, she “felt real waves coming from him, and felt the exchange with you more than any other person I had ever experienced.”
Ms. Marcus added, “He was probably the sexiest person I ever photographed.”