Space race photographer Ralph Morse dies at 97 (update)

December 10, 2014

US astronaut John Young in training at Dallas, Texas, in 1964. He is testing a spacesuit’s range of motion, using rulers attached to the inside of a space capsule [Photo credit: Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images]

Morse, who worked as a staff photographer for Life for 30 years, will be most remembered for his work documenting the space race.

The photographer became the magazine’s youngest war correspondent when in 1942, aged 24, he was assigned to cover the Pacific region during the Second World War.

‘Known for his technical innovations, as well as his great versatility, he shot everything from sports to the space race – and it was the latter that he was to become most associated with,’ states a Getty Images profile.

‘Reporting regularly for Life from the very earliest days of NASA, he gained privileged access to the astronauts and the technology, capturing some of the most unique and defining images of America’s journey to the moon.’

In a biography, NASA says on its website: ‘Morse covered the John Glenn flight in 1962 and was recalled from retirement to cover John Glenn’s second flight in 1998.

‘He was present for almost every human space flight and many unmanned missions.’

The New York-born photographer had a passion for taking pictures from a young age, enrolling on every photographic course he could, before trawling agencies in search of a job. editor Ben Cosgrove wrote on Time magazine online: ‘No photographer in the history of Life magazine had a more varied, thrilling and productive career than Ralph.

‘Long after he retired, he was unfailingly gracious whenever anyone from contacted him, often out of the blue, asking if he recalled this or that assignment, or if he remembered taking a specific photo 40 or 50 or 60 years before.

‘He was a true original – one of those rare figures who seemed [to] have been everywhere, chronicling everything and everyone, for so much of the 20th century.

‘He was also one hell of a storyteller. Ralph Morse will be sorely missed. Fortunately, for all of us, his work endures.’

Morse’s photojournalism was recognised by dozens of awards, including the Joseph A Sprague Memorial Award in 1995.

Ralph Morse – who worked for Time magazine after Life stopped weekly publication in 1972 – died at his home in Florida on 7 December 2014.

To read a Time magazine feature about the photographer’s work, click HERE

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