DPP Home Profiles Larry Armstrong: A Beginner’s Mind

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Larry Armstrong: A Beginner’s Mind

Former L.A. Times Director Of Photography Larry Armstrong guided the newspaper through technological upheaval and radical, fundamental changes in photojournalism

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During his tenure at the Los Angeles Times, Larry Armstrong was no stranger to shooting in hostile foreign environments. He covered the war in El Salvador, famine in Africa and the conflict in Northern Ireland. From hot spots around the world to the glamour of Hollywood, he has also photographed his fair share of celebrities. As the Times’ director of photography for nearly a decade, he oversaw Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Gulf War, the fall of the Iron Curtain, numerous political conventions, and breaking news stories that ranged from natural disasters to the O.J. Simpson trial. Above: Women sift sand for kernels of grain at a rail terminus in Nyala, Sudan.

A vendor sells bread to passengers at a bus stop in Mexico.
Nobel Prize-winning author Yasunari Kawabata’s book Snow Country begins: “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky.” It marks the transition between the bleak plains outside of Tokyo and the incredible fantasyland of the mountainous Gumma Prefecture in winter that train passengers experience. It must have felt like that dramatic change for Larry Armstrong after emerging into the freelance photography world in 2001 after 15 years behind a desk at the Los Angeles Times. When he first sat down as an assignment editor it was an analog world. When he got up for the last time as the newspaper’s director of pho-tography, he did so into a world of digital.

While at the Times, Armstrong directed photographic teams in award-winning coverage of countless dramatic local and international events—bank shootouts to earthquakes and riots, the O.J. Simpson trial, the Gulf War, the fall of the Iron Curtain, eight U.S. political conventions, American military operations in Haiti and Panama, civil war in Bosnia, historic elections in South Africa—and oversaw the conversion of the way photographers create the photographs that end up in newspapers at our front doors.

Before donning his editor’s cap, Armstrong covered stories with his camera on the warfront in El Salvador, the famines in Africa, the unrest in Northern Ireland, as well as domestic stories, from America’s ghettos to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

Armstrong believes in conceptual integration and practices what he preaches. While at the Times, he brought together writers, editors and photographers to develop story ideas and to solve problems. In addition to being a master photographer, he’s a licensed private pilot, speaks several languages, plays the guitar, holds a 4th degree black belt in Aikido, and is a fly fisherman and a painter. As one who has been on both sides of the photo editor’s desk and experienced the tumultuous changes that technology has brought to photography and photojournalism, Armstrong provides extraordinarily unique and valuable insight into the present and future of editorial photography.


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