TIME obituary

In Memoriam: Michel du Cille (1956 – 2014)

He worked in images, but his passion was reality

In 1987, photographer Michel du Cille immersed himself in the lives of Miami crack addicts inside a dangerous apartment complex known to its residents as the Graveyard. Working alongside the tough and talented young reporter Lynne Duke, du Cille produced a definitive document of the social and human tragedy that was the crack epidemic. Michel’s work for the Miami Herald’s Tropic magazine won the Pulitzer Prize—one of three Pulitzers honoring this important and influential photojournalist.

His editor on the piece, Gene Weingarten, was struck by the fact that Michel went to work without a camera. For weeks, he haunted the Graveyard with empty hands, learning to see human beings before making them his subjects. Knowing them meant revealing himself. “I want them to get to know me as a person,” Michel said. “First comes trust, then the work.”

Du Cille died this week as he lived, taking the long, honest path. He despised shortcuts. At 58, he was hiking miles of remote West African trail in pursuit of the Ebola epidemic for the Washington Post. Evidently, he suffered a heart attack.

A great news photograph—and Michel du Cille made many of them—reveals its subject in a way that writing can never match. What may be less obvious is that a great photograph also reveals the photographer. Writers can sketch scenes based on interviews; spin tales from notes and transcripts. The photographer must be present at the critical moment; there can be no substitute. This almost always means hours, days and weeks of preparation before the moment comes.

I was honored to work with Michel for many years at the Herald and the Post, and I remember him as a journalist of unrelenting integrity. He spoke in a soft voice with the faintest seasoning of his native Jamaica, and his was the still, soft voice of conscience. He demanded the best from himself and expected nothing less from the rest of us.

Together with the brilliant and hilarious editor Joe Elbert, du Cille built the Post’s photography department into one of the most distinguished in newspaper history. They were yin and yang, boisterous Joe and quiet Michel, but they prided themselves on their shared commitment to utter candor. They critiqued portfolios like Marine drill instructors, breaking the photographers down before rebuilding them in stronger form.

Wounded soldiers during a morning formation. Walter Reed Medical Center. 2007. Michel du Cille—The Washington Post/Getty Images

When Michel stepped down from senior newsroom management to resume life as “a shooter,” he immediately reminded us that he could walk the walk. His deeply humane work documenting the neglect of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center perfectly complemented the wrenching investigation by writers Anne Hull and Dana Priest, and earned the Pulitzer gold medal in 2008.

That he eagerly volunteered to go into combat in Afghanistan after cancer treatment and a pair of knee replacements tells you a lot of what you need to know about Michelangelo Everard du Cille. That he wrote with searing openness about the challenge of honoring the dignity of Ebola patients while documenting their wretched suffering tells you the rest. He worked in images, but his passion was reality. No picture could be worthy unless it was honest.

Chip Somodevilla of Getty Images says that he leans daily on a lesson he learned from du Cille. “He said to always look at the subject—the action—from all angles. He said to literally walk a circle around your subject to see it from a different angle, and wait for the surprises to come. That is very sound and sage advice from a man who never stopped telling stories that surprised, touched and moved us all.”

TIME remembrance

Nelson Mandela Remembered, One Year Later

Mandela cover
The Dec. 19, 2013, cover of TIME Cover Credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY HANS GEDDA - SYGMA/CORBIS

The South African leader died on Dec. 5, 2013

It was one year ago, on Dec. 5, 2013, that Nelson Mandela died at age 95. To mark the passing of a man who U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration,” TIME put out a special issue, with remembrances from luminaries like Bono and Morgan Freeman, as well as a look back by the magazine’s former managing editor, Rick Stengel, who had worked closely with Mandela.

Stengel recalled visiting Mandela’s ancestral village with him, and finding that the South African leader seemed uninterested in talking about death:

Mandela might have been a more sentimental man if so much had not been taken away from him. His freedom. His ability to choose the path of his life. His eldest son. Two great-grandchildren. Nothing in his life was permanent except the oppression he and his people were under. And everything he might have had he sacrificed to achieve the freedom of his people. But all the crude jailers, tiny cells and bumptious white apartheid leaders could not take away his pride, his dignity and his sense of justice. Even when he had to strip and be hosed down when he first entered Robben Island, he stood straight and did not complain.

Read the full issue, here in the TIME archives: Nelson Mandela, 1918–2013

TIME

Man Posthumously Reveals He Was Spiderman in Obituary He Helped Write

Aaron Purmort showed great humor even in his dying days

Aaron Purmort was an art director, “pop culture encyclopedia,” husband and father. But his obituary, published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after his death from a brain tumor on Nov. 25, revealed him to be something else: Spiderman. The obituary, which he co-wrote with his wife, said that he died “after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer.”

The remembrance goes on to recall (facetiously) his first wife Gwen Stefani and to assure readers that his son “will grow up to avenge his father’s untimely death.” Purmort’s wife Nora wrote on her blog, “My Husband’s Tumor,” that she had “never laughed and cried more in one sitting” than when the two of them wrote the obituary together. She has been documenting their story — “not a cancer story” but a love story “with some cancer” — on the blog since 2012, the year after they got married and Aaron was first diagnosed, and the year before they had their son.

The Purmorts’ story will soon become a documentary, the title of which, a&n, serves as a reminder that it is a love story at its core. As Nora wrote in the blog post in which she announced Aaron’s death: “I know what Aaron always knew: it might not be true right this second, but it’s going to be okay.”

TIME Books

Crime Novelist P.D. James Dies at 94

Oxford Literary Festival
Author P.D. James poses for a portrait at the Oxford Literary Festival on April 9, 2011 in Oxford, England. David Levenson—Getty Images

The British writer was known as “the Queen of Crime” for her popular mystery novels

British crime writer Phyllis Dorothy James White — who wrote under the name P.D. James — has died at her home in Oxford, England, it was announced Thursday. She was 94.

James, who wrote more than 20 books, was known as “the Queen of Crime,” for her fiction. Some of her best-known works included The Children of Men, which was adapted into a film in 2006, The Murder Room and Death Comes to Pemberley, a spin-off of Pride and Prejudice.

Born in Oxford in August 1920, James did not publish her first novel, Cover Her Face, until she was 42. She went on to become an international success, with many of works being adapted for the screen. She was also awarded the Crime Writers’ Association’s Diamond Dagger award in 1987 for lifetime achievement and the Medal of Honor for Literature in 2005 by National Arts Club. In 1991, she was named a Conservative life peer under the title Baroness James of Holland Park.

James told the BBC last year that she was working on another novel, though she noted, “With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write.”

The news of James’s death was announced by her UK publisher Faber & Faber. In a statement, the publisher said of James: “She was so very remarkable in every aspect of her life, an inspiration and great friend to us all. It is a privilege to publish her extraordinary books. Working with her was always the best of times, full of joy. We will miss her hugely.”

[BBC]

TIME movies

Mike Nichols: A Look Back at the Director’s Best Films

Director Mike Nichols.
Director Mike Nichols. Gerald Holubowicz—Polaris

The director passed away Nov. 20 at the age of 83

Director Mike Nichols passed away today at the age of 83. The revered director (and husband of Diane Sawyer) was best known for directing films like The Graduate and Working Girl and The Remains of the Day, which he also produced. He was a member of the select group of EGOT winners — those who have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards.

Nichols excelled at translating stage productions into sublime films, including Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which earned him the Oscar for best director. He also staged the original theatrical productions of Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and Spamalot, winning his eighth Tony Award a few years ago for his revival of Death of a Salesman.

In addition to the films he directed for the screen, he also directed some incredible features for television, including the mini-series Angels in America and Wit, which both earned Emmy Awards.

As a primer for newcomers or a walk down cinematic memory lane for those looking to honor the memory of a great director, here are eight of his best films:

The Graduate (1967)

Catch-22 (1970)

Biloxi Blues (1988)

Silkwood (1983)

Working Girl (1988)

Closer (2004)

The Birdcage (1996)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

TIME obituary

Co-Host of NPR’s ‘Car Talk’ Dies at 77

Tom Magliozzi;Ray Magliozzi
From Left: Ray Magliozzi and Tom Magliozzi car mechanics and radio talk show hosts for the show, Car Talk on WBUR-FM National Public Radio. Richard Howard—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Known as one half of "Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers"

Tom Magliozzi, one of the hosts of NPR’s Car Talk, has died at 77 years old.

The radio host, known for his booming laughter, died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease, NPR reports.

Magliozzi and his brother, Ray, became famous public radio personalities as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” on the weekly show Car Talk, which went national in 1987.

After graduating from MIT, where his brother also went, Magliozzi worked as an engineer, a college professor and a mechanic. He got into radio after a local station started putting together a panel of mechanics for a show. He was the only one who showed up but was such a hit that he was invited back (and brought his brother, who is twelve years his junior, with him).

Car Talk has been airing archived shows since 2012, when the brothers retired.

[NPR]

TIME remembrance

Oscar de la Renta’s Life in Photos

A look back at the life of the iconic fashion designer

Oscar de La Renta passed away Tuesday at the age of 82. Born in the Dominican Republic, the iconic fashion designer first became famous in the 1960s for dressing Jackie Kennedy, and since then has designed outfits for several First Ladies as well as the cream of Hollywood society. Take a look back at his life in pictures.

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