Gordon N. Converse, photojournalist

"The picture is the artist's thought objectified," wrote Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy. That was certainly true of Gordon N. Converse, the Monitor's longtime chief photographer, who passed on Feb. 14.

To see Gordon's work was to feel his love for all mankind.

"If I have succeeded as a photographer, it's because I have gone to the work with an open heart," he said.

Gordon's stunning black-and-white photographs began appearing in the Monitor during World War II while he was serving in the southwest Pacific with the US Navy. He joined the Monitor's staff the day he left the Navy and spent the next 40 years traveling to 120 countries for this paper.

Gordon was a pioneer in the use of 35mm cameras and natural light for newspaper photography. Among many other awards, he was named Newspaper-Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1959.

"As I travel from the Andes to the Himalayas or down into Africa's Rift Valley, I am constantly in search of positive statements about man - that he can find hope, freedom, happiness, and dignity wherever he might be," Gordon said.

In explaining this approach to photography, he quoted Henry David Thoreau: "The question is not what you look at but what you see."

Gordon loved Monitor readers enough to be a perfectionist about conveying what he saw.

Monitor veterans remember him going to the press room to personally adjust the amount of ink used to reproduce his photos in the paper.

In the pursuit of Monitor photographs, Gordon displayed a tremendous amount of quiet courage. Once this meant shooting down from the top of a skyscraper by perching on a trash can on a swaying window-washing platform. It also meant flying into Laos in a small plane where the seat belts came out in his hands and the seats themselves ripped out of the floor during takeoff.

While his work displayed unfailing artistry, Gordon did not avoid tough subjects.

"I sometimes wanted to disturb our readers enough so they would understand an ugly world situation and begin to respond," he said. "If you get into the hearts of other people, they will be concerned enough to do something about it."

Along the way, this gentle, modest man won the trust of several generations of the world's political and cultural leaders including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jawaharlal Nehru, Robert Frost and Ansel Adams.

But the picture that triggered the greatest reader response was not of the powerful nor of some exotic scene half a world away.

It was the photo - reproduced at right - of his young daughter, Debbie, running in front of the home Gordon built with his own hands deep in the woods of Needham, Mass.

"It's symbolic," Gordon's wife, Shirley, says of the photo. "It shows us running to the light."

The light of Gordon's approach to photography shone through his work.

He said, "I always tried to take the best possible picture in the kindest possible way."

That he did.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Gordon N. Converse, photojournalist
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today