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OBITUARY: Monte Zucker, 1929-2007

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In memory of Monte Zucker (1929-2007): innovator, teacher and champion of professional photography

By Jeff Kent

The photography world has lost a novel talent and a tireless spirit. After a tough battle with pancreatic cancer, Monte Zucker, M.Photog.Cr., Hon.M.Photog., API, F-ASP, passed away on March 15, 2007. Zucker will be forever remembered for his impeccable portrait and wedding images, his zeal for helping other photographers, and his determination to conduct his life his way.

Over the course of his 50-plus year career, Zucker was one of professional photography’s most accomplished innovators. Among other achievements, he is widely credited with pioneering classic portraiture techniques on location at weddings. Back in the 1960s, when other wedding photographers were snapping flat, static portraits at weddings, Zucker decided to bring studio-quality portraiture to his wedding jobs. The resulting images revolutionized wedding photography. Every portrait was well composed, well lit and well exposed. Clients loved the style, and soon Zucker was one of the East Coast’s most sought-after photographers.

One of Zucker’s favorite comments was, “I don’t photograph the world as it is; I photograph the world as I would like it to be.” This statement is both figurative and literal. Zucker’s primary goal was to create beautiful memories with his images. He concentrated on faces and feelings, making idealized versions of real life that his clients would treasure long after the true moments had faded. Zucker also wanted to use his photography as a celebration of all that is good in life. Through his images, he wanted to express how lucky we are to be living in a wonderfully diverse and interesting world.

In his final days, Zucker remained engaged with the industry he loved so much for so long. He attended Imaging USA in January 2007, only a few weeks before his final passing. Every day, he would give all the strength he had to sit and talk with his fellow image makers. For Zucker, there would be no other way to do it. Toward the end of the convention, he graciously took time to give one last interview for this magazine. When asked about his legacy, he was pensive and emotional. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is give people an appreciation of the things that surround us every day, the things we take for granted,” he said after some thought. “If I’ve accomplished that to any degree, then I feel that I have contributed something that is worth while.”

Monte Zucker’s name and legacy will live on in the form of his charitable organization, the Zucker Institute for Photographic Inspiration. Launched by Zucker before his passing, the Institute is dedicated to helping at-risk youth get engaged with photography as a means for inspiring a better life, and possibly a career. For more information, visit www.montezucker.com and follow links to information on the Institute.