Written by By Trentini Norman, CNN
When Bob Lansdale passed away last week, he left behind a legacy of journalistic, social and political work — a stark contrast to his demeanor.
Journalist and author Bob Lansdale Credit: TUSCULUM/Hammock Inns
Born in Houston, Texas in 1942, Lansdale earned an international reputation as one of the great chroniclers of social change in Africa. His book, “Where are the Children of the Cross?”, a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1994, was renowned for chronicling child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, which have become commonplace in Africa over the past three decades.
Facing armed conflict in his lifetime began for Lansdale as an underage reporter for the Los Angeles Times. An act of aggression by three armed American soldiers sent him to Germany to serve as a reporter. After returning home, a different kind of conflict awaited him.
Bob Lansdale, celebrity photographer meets Robert Redford and Muhammad Ali. Credit: FRANK MUNICHER/REUTERS
“I was 18 and I’d never seen guns before. I’d never even been arrested. It was the beginning of a life with guns,” he said in a video released to honor him.
While a resident in Los Angeles, Lansdale befriended Robert Redford, who gave him his first camera. Four years later, he was taking pictures of international celebrities in Vietnam.
Trentini Norman is the author of four books on Robert Redford and two on James E. Buckley, Jr. Credit: Bing Liu/New York Times Co.
Lansdale later went on to report from South Africa and the American south, among other places, in the 80s and 90s.
In later years, Lansdale also became a prolific international celebrity photographer. He met and collaborated with some of the greatest actors and directors in the world, such as James E. Buckley, Jr., Jack Nicholson, Rod Steiger, James Cameron, Russell Crowe, Robert Redford, and Jeff Bridges.
“It’s always the same in every single project, your first and final edition of a cover,” Lansdale said in a video about his book, “Artistes.” “And so there is a moment where a lot of the tension and excitement and pressure is relieved and you’re almost reborn as a photographer, because you kind of forgot how you work and that satisfaction of getting it right.”
Bob Lansdale, Bob Madonna and Robert Redford on a photo shoot Credit: Rex Features/Rex Features via Getty Images
Redford recognized Lansdale’s skill in 1998, and hired him to photograph Bob Madonna, who founded the paparazzi photo agency “Stefanie” in 1963, who played “Rocky III” in the film. The trio toured “colorful and outlandish” locations across Louisiana and Missouri, including a Disney World ride.
“We shot in thousands of photos — thousands and thousands of different shots — of hair, costumes, gags, stunts and, of course, Madonna,” Lansdale said in the video. “He was my inspiration. I realized it is possible to be out of your comfort zone.”
Lansdale is survived by his wife and three children.