boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

Loomis Dean, 88, acclaimed Life magazine photographer

LOS ANGELES -- Loomis Dean, 88, a Life magazine photographer who made memorable pictures of the royalty of both Europe and Hollywood, died Dec. 7 Wednesday at Sonoma Valley Hospital in Sonoma, Calif., of complications from a stroke, according to his son, Christopher.

In a photographic career spanning six decades, Mr. Dean's leading images included shirtless Hollywood mogul Darryl F. Zanuck trying a one-handed chin-up on a trapeze bar; the liner Andrea Doria listing in the Atlantic; and writer Ernest Hemingway in Spain the year before he committed suicide. One of Mr. Dean's most memorable photographs for Life magazine was of the cosmopolitan British playwright and composer Noel Coward in the unlikely setting of the Nevada desert.

Mr. Dean shot 52 covers for Life as either a freelance photographer or during his two stretches as a staffer with the magazine, 1947 to 1961 and 1966 to 1969. After leaving the magazine for good, Mr. Dean found steady freelance work in magazines and as a still photographer on film sets.

Born in Monticello, Fla., Mr. Dean was the son of a grocer and a schoolteacher. When the family business failed during the Depression, the Dean family moved to Sarasota, Fla., where his father worked as a curator and guide at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

Mr. Dean studied engineering at the University of Florida but became transfixed with photography after watching a friend in a darkroom develop film.

He went off to what is now the Rochester Institute of Technology, which was known for its photography school.

After earning his degree, Mr. Dean went to work for the Ringling circus as a junior press agent and, according to his son, cultivated a side job photographing Ringling's performers and workers.

He worked briefly as one of Parade magazine's first photographers but left after receiving an Army Air Forces commission during World War II. During the war, he worked in aerial reconnaissance in the Pacific and was along on a number of air raids over Japan.

His first assignment for Life in 1946 took him back to the circus: His photograph of clown Lou Jacobs with a giraffe looking over his shoulder made the magazine's cover and earned Mr. Dean a staff job.

In the era before television, Life magazine photographers had some of the most glamorous work in journalism. Life assigned him to cover Hollywood. In 1954, the magazine published one of his more memorable photos, the shot of Coward dressed for a night on the town in New York but standing alone in the stark Nevada desert.

Mr. Dean had the idea of asking Coward, who was then doing a summer engagement at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, to pose in the desert to illustrate his song ''Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun."

As Mr. Dean recalled in an interview with John Loengard for the book ''Life Photographers: What They Saw," Coward wasn't about to partake in the midday sun. ''Oh, dear boy, I don't get up until 4 o'clock in the afternoon," Mr. Dean recalled him saying.

But Mr. Dean pressed on anyway. As he related to Loengard, he rented a Cadillac limousine and filled the back seat with a tub loaded with liquor, tonic, and ice cubes -- and Coward.

The temperature that day reached 119 as Coward relaxed in his underwear during the drive to a spot in the desert about 15 miles from Las Vegas. According to Mr. Dean, Coward's dresser helped him into his tuxedo, resulting in the image of the elegant Coward with a cigarette holder in his mouth against his shadow on the dry lake bed.

''Splendid! Splendid! What an idea! If we only had a piano," Coward said of the shoot before hopping back in the car and stripping down to his underwear for the ride back to Las Vegas.

In 1956, Life assigned Mr. Dean to Paris and, while sailing to Europe on the Ile de France, he was awakened with the news that the liner Andrea Doria had collided with another liner, the Stockholm.

The accident occurred close enough to Mr. Dean's liner that survivors were being brought aboard. His photographs of the shaken voyagers and the sinking Andrea Doria were some of the first pictures of the accident published in a US magazine.

During his years in Europe, Mr. Dean photographed communist riots, fashion shows, royal weddings throughout Europe, and great authors, including James Jones and William Burroughs. He spent three weeks with Hemingway in Spain in 1960 for an assignment on bullfighting. In 1989, Dean published ''Hemingway's Spain," about his experiences with the great writer.

In addition to his son, he leaves a daughter, Deborah, and two grandsons.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives