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Loomis Dean

Loomis Dean (September 19, 1917 – December 7, 2005) was a veteran Life Magazine photographer who shot pictures of circus clowns, crown princes, Hollywood stars, Madagascar lemurs and SS Andrea Doria survivors in a five-decade long career. His low-key manner disarmed his subjects and put them at ease, enabling Dean capture such images as the Prince of Liechtenstein in his long johns and Noël Coward in a tuxedo in the desert.

Loomis was the son of a grocer and a schoolteacher, and originally from Monticello, Florida. He became fascinated with photography while watching a friend print a photograph in a darkroom, and later chose to study photography at the Eastman School of Photography in Rochester, New York.

His first photography job in 1938 was advance man and photographer for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was an Army Air Forces photographer in the Pacific during World War II, and he later got his first job as a press agent for the Ringling Brothers circus. He rode the circus train across the country, shooting clowns, acrobats and lion tamers and processing his pictures in hotel bathtubs.

In 1947, he joined the staff of Life, photographing such stars as Elvis Presley, Lucille Ball, Noël Coward and Liberace.  He also shot pictures of royal weddings, Popes, Ernest Hemingway, fashion shows, riots and Mideast wars. In 1956, while sailing to Paris to take a job in the magazine’s bureau there, Dean photographed the sinking and the rescue of passengers from the ocean liner SS Andrea Doria.

Dean shot 52 covers for Life, either as a freelance photographer or during his two stretches as a staffer with the magazine, 1947-61 and 1966-69. After leaving the magazine, Dean found steady freelance work in magazines and as a still photographer on film sets, including several of the early James Bond movies starring Sean Connery.

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 most memorable photos, the shot of Coward dressed for a night on the town in New York but standing alone in the stark Nevada desert.

In 1965, out of 400 contestants, Dean won the Papal Prize in the Vatican’s Ecumenical Council Photographic Exhibition. The winning color photograph showed white-robed bishops bearing the Pope’s tiara marching in solemn procession through St. Peter’s Square. It appeared in Life on November 2, 1962.

After Life magazine folded in 1972, he worked freelance for movie studios and news magazines.

He was an accomplished sailor and a collector of cameras. At any given time, he rarely had fewer than three around his neck.

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