Lisa Larsen (1925-1959)
Legendary photographer Lisa Larsen was one of LIFE’s pioneering female photojournalists. Born in Germany, she moved to the US as a teenager. She started out as a picture file clerk at Black Star, but soon became a popular freelance photographer working for many publications, including Vogue, The New York Times, Parade, Glamour, and LIFE. After 1948, she worked primarily for LIFE.
In the beginning of her career at the influential magazine, she was assigned mainly entertainment and fashion stories. However, she later moved on to photographing more political stories, such as the official portrait of First Lady Bess Truman and the Eisenhower presidential campaign of 1950. Her most well-known work is probably her photographs of the John F. Kennedy/Jacqueline Bouvier wedding in 1953 which she covered with fellow photojournalist Toni Frissell.
In the early 1950s as she photographed Iran’s Premier Mohammed Mossadegh from his New York hospital bed, during the 1951 Iranian oil dispute with Britain. She also photographed Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, the first female president of the United Nations General Assembly, in 1953. Lisa accompanied LIFE photographer Cornell Capa to Jamaica for Queen Elizabeth II’s first royal tour and covered Indochina and Vietnam extensively in 1955. Her portrait work for LIFE also included the attendee portraits of the 1955 Bandung Conference promoting African/Asian relations.
She spent four months in Moscow in 1956, and famously charmed Nikita Khrushchev and Marshall Josip Tito, whilst photographing in Outer Mongolia, Poland and Hungary. Lisa covered Khrushchev again in 1958, on his tour to celebrate the end of WW2; this was one of her last assignments before her untimely death from cancer in 1959.
Lisa said: “I feel it is very important to know your subjects as individuals. Ideally this takes time – and often you don’t have time. You work under pressure. . . . I dislike superficial and I especially dislike superficial relationships.”
The International Centre of Photography holds a large selection of her work.
By Paula Vellet