Thank You John G. Morris; May You Rest in Peace as You Wished for the Entire World
At the age of 100, John G. Morris died this week, on July 28th. This issue is dedicated to John and all that he accomplished, including his upstanding unofficial membership in the American community in Paris which treasured him.
His passing might not mean much to you, but it means a lot to us and unknowingly to everyone who was touched by John, directly or indirectly. He was a photo editor, and that might not seem so important, but John’s work made history. The New York Times described his work as the person “who chose many of the photographs that defined the way modern history was viewed, from World War II through the Vietnam War.”
An American living in Paris since 1983, he was possibly America’s most illustrious full-time resident in the City of Light. John’s lifetime career in photojournalism touched the lives of millions of people from as early as World War II when he was responsible for the coverage of the D-Day invasion in Normandy and edited the historic photos taken by Robert Capa. One story about John is that it was on his 25th birthday while working for Life Magazine in Los Angeles, and having birthday cake with family, that he got news of the Pearl Harbor attack. He spent the rest of his birthday in Little Tokyo and at the FBI headquarters until the wee hours of the morning. This event changed his life forever.
When he moved to Paris, he was the European correspondent for National Geographic. He also worked as photo editor with Ladies’ Home Journal, Magnum, The Pentagon, The Washington Post and The New York Times. As a veteran of the horrors of war as recorded in photos, John is a devout pacifist and believes in showing the true ugliness of war. His own photos emerged on the scene only a few years ago, when he joked that he was “the world’s oldest emerging photographer.”
I met John thanks to his active participation in Democrats Abroad. He regularly and graciously opened his atelier-style apartment to DA and other organizational events. He was always active and sprite, attending many American-based affairs. It was never unusual to see John contributing openly to the ambiance of the event.
Over the years, John amassed an amazing collection of photography that was auctioned off in April of 2011, which I had the good fortune of witnessing alongside legendary New York Daily News photographer Harry Hamburg, at the Drouot Montaigne auction house. Harry whispered in my ear a blow-by-blow description of every photo that crossed the auctioneer’s path. I felt very privileged.
John was scheduled to celebrate his century on the planet with a special event at the American Library in December of 2016, but was postponed while he recuperated from emergency surgery that week. “The American Library looks forward to rescheduling this retrospective in the presence of this giant of 20th-century photojournalism, and extends him every good wish on this extraordinary milestone.”
He sadly was not able to attend his own 100th birthday party planned at his Paris home in Le Marais the following Sunday. Aside from the parties, John still had much to accomplish. He was working on a new book titled, “My Century” with more than 600 pages including many of the photos of which he can be proud to have edited. His goal was to end war, period. (See nppa.org/news/)
Naturally, Wikipedia lists his long list of accomplishments and publications including having been awarded the 2009 Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. A film, “Get the Picture” (2013), is a documentary about John produced by Irish filmmaker Cathy Pearson. It’s about his unique and illustrious life and was shown at the American Library in Paris prior to its formal release.
On a personal note, John was always an inspiration to all of us. The Paris community will not be the same without him, and neither will the entire world. Thank you, John, for educating us and enlightening us with your photos and your outlook on life.
Here are just a few of the articles following his passing, so that you can read for yourself about John’s illustrious career:
A la prochaine,
Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Friend of Parler Nice and jazz/blues musician, Freddie Hall, will be performing here in Nice this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 3rd, 4th and 5th, at the Shapko Jazz Club beginning at 10 p.m. I’m planning on being there one of Thursday night, so feel free to join me!