Sally Soames, First English Media Photographer Passed Away

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Sally Soames
Sally Soames

Sally Soames, the female photographer who carved a niche for herself and the women community with her unique photography skills passed away at the age of  82. She has proved her talents in the field with her assignments with The Observer and The Sunday Times. Sally Saomes believed that black and white shots have more visual impact than colour photos.  She also preferred to take shots in natural light. Newsrooms and picture desks in the 1960s and 70s were bastions of male privilege but Soames’s tenacity and talent forced editors to take her seriously, in particular, the Sunday Times editor Harry Evans. Sally was the first female photographer to take shots of Boxer Muhammad Ali.

 Those who worked with her remember her fearlessness as well as her striking appearance. She covered the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Her tender portrait of a soldier who has lost an eye being visited by one of his comrades at Tel HaShomer hospital is an extraordinary study of empathy. But it was a personal assignment inside Auschwitz in 1979 that seemed to really deepen her understanding of the emotional potential of photography. She described her work as “emotional documentary” and explained the method as follows: “There is a certain point when the person forgets they are being photographed. You are giving them something and they are giving you something. It is a wonderful feeling – a tremendous closeness of two people.” She was drawn to those in the public eye, politicians, artists, and writers.

Like most portrait photographers she believed that the best ones were a collaboration with the sitter. For her portrait of Mikhail Gorbachev, she spent four of the allocated six minutes establishing a rapport (via an interpreter) before taking the shot.

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