Jerome Liebling, 87, internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker and teacher, died of cancer Wednesday, July 27th at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, MA. He inspired generations of students with his humanitarian vision expressed through the media of photography and film. He received many honors and awards including two Guggenheim Fellowships, and his work is in the permanent collections of many prominent museums including the Museum of Modern of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in LA. In recent years Liebling has had exhibitions of his work at The Yale University Art Gallery, The Smith College Museum of Art and The Currier Museum of Art. He published numerous books of his work including The Dickinsons of Amherst, The People, Yes, and Jerome Liebling Photographs.
Born in New York City on April 16th 1924, Liebling was the son of Morris and Sarah (Goodman) Liebling. He was raised in Brooklyn the youngest of three boys. His brothers David and Stanley pre-deceased him. Liebling enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII, served in the 82nd Airborne Division and saw combat in Europe and North Africa. As a result of his military experiences, Liebling became staunchly anti-war.
After WWII, under the GI Bill, Liebling studied photography with Walter Rosenblum at Brooklyn College and filmmaking at the New School for Social Research. In the late 1940s he was a member of the Photo League in New York City where he worked with the some of the most noted documentary photographers of the era. The Photo League was a cooperative of photographers with common artistic and social sensibilities. Throughout his life Liebling had a deep concern for social justice and human rights.
In 1949, Liebling established the film and photography program at the University of Minnesota. The same year, he married Phyllis Levine of Brooklyn, NY. They later divorced. In Minnesota he collaborated on several award winning documentary films with colleague Allen Downs. In 1969, Liebling founded the Film and Photography program of then new Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. He taught there for 20 years, inspiring a new generation of photographers and filmmakers.
Liebling is survived by his wife, Rebecca Nordstrom, and children: Madeline Liebling of Shelburne Falls, MA, Tina Liebling (Mark Liebow) of Rochester, MN, Adam Liebling of Cambridge, MA, Daniella Liebling (James Lane) of Brooklyn, NY, Rachel Jane Liebling of Brooklyn, NY, and grandchildren: Gabriel Liebling Vigh, David Liebow, Hannah Liebow, Samuel Liebow, and Nathaniel Xavier Liebling. A memorial service will be held in the fall.
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