Ohio University

Remembering influential photojournalist Paul Fusco

Remembering influential photojournalist Paul Fusco
Paul Fusco speaks at the 2012 Schuneman Symposium

Paul Fusco, a talented photojournalist and member of the prestigious photographic group Magnum Photos, died on July 15, 2020, at the age of 90. He was residing in San Anselmo, California, said his son, Anthony Fusco. Paul had fallen and broken his hip six days before his death.

Paul was born in 1930 in Leominster, MA. He was a graduate of Ohio University in 1957 with the degree Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography.  That program had been created by Clarence H. White Jr., whose father was one of the founders of the famed Photo Secession, a national group promoting photography as a fine art. After receiving his degree in fine arts, he moved to New York City and became a staff photographer at LOOK Magazine, where he worked until its closure in 1971. Beyond the many stories he photographed for LOOK Magazine, his book on the Chernobyl Legacy was one of his strongest works. 

Before enrolling at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, to study photojournalism, Paul had worked as a photographer with the United States Army Signal Corps in Korea from 1951 - 1953. At Ohio University, Paul's academic adviser was Professor “Betty” Truxell, an experienced photojournalist who had produced picture stories for LOOK before Fusco studied with her at OHIO.

It was June 4, 1968, and Robert Kennedy was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where he was killed. Paul Fusco moved quickly in New York City with his camera to get onto the train that would carry the body of Robert Kennedy from New York City to Washington DC. He photographed from the windows as the train carried those with the family, including Paul.  Hour after hour. Picture after picture. Many wept, some waived. So many couldn't believe what they were seeing -- and it was happening to the Kennedy family. Fusco kept his Leica cameras clicking.  His work goes very, very deeply. The book which came later tells so much.   

In fact, Paul Fusco never returned to his alma mater, Ohio University, after his graduation in 1957 until April of 2012—some 55 years.  At that time, he was the guest of the Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media. His topic: The Robert Kennedy Story and Photographs. At the time he brought his transparencies of the shoot, but wasn't confident in how to present them on the big screen. Bill Schuneman, the son of Pat and Smith Schuneman, who sponsored the Symposium, was there and Bill spent the night with Paul to organize and sequence the materials Paul had brought. The next day Paul presented the story of his work on that shoot as if it had only been a week or two.  It was one of the finest presentations in the series and meant so much to the more than a hundred and fifty students who were watching a master present his work!!    

In the years that Paul was employed at LOOK he produced many in-depth stories that included both words and pictures. He worked closely with the staff art directors including Allan Hurlbert and William Hopkins.  After Hurlbert had retired, Hopkins was the lead art director, with photographers Fusco and Doug Kirkland carrying much of the responsibility for the pictures in print. Hopkins has said that he could have produced LOOK with the two photographers – Fusco and Doug Kirkland – because they completed each assignment so well.

- R. Smith Schuneman

Mr. Schuneman and his wife, Patricia, established the Schuneman Symposium, an annual event designed to help OHIO’s journalism students become more aware of the power of photography and for the photojournalism students to appreciate the power of the written word.