Brian Lanker was a big man with a big heart and over the course of his life (1947–2011) and career as a photojournalist he created an impressive record of photographic works and left a far-reaching legacy of friends and admirers in his towering shadow. Pentagram has designed From the Heart, an oversized, 224-page coffee-table book that documents Lanker’s groundbreaking work, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning photo-essays at the Topeka Capital-Journal in the early 1970s to his loving tribute to influential African-American women, I Dream a World, which became one of the best-selling photo books of all time, to his greatest hits for top-tier publications like LIFE, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated.
The monograph was unveiled at the opening of an accompanying exhibition with the same name at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. It was a collaborative effort spearheaded by Brian’s widow Lynda Lanker, an accomplished artist in her own right, and his loyal, longtime assistant Lynne Lamb.
Lanker’s friends, family and colleagues contribute essays, including award-winning photographer Michael O’Brien and seasoned journalists Blaine Newnham and John Frook. Maya Angelou, who befriended Brian when she posed for I Dream a World in 1987, writes a short but heartfelt preface, which may be her last piece of published writing. Jill Hartz, the Executive Director of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, wrote the foreword to the book; Roy Flukinger, the Senior Research Curator at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, wrote an insightful, authoritative introduction; and writer Mike “Buck” Tharp wrote the captions. The “Godfather of Photojournalism,” Rich Clarkson, who first hired the 23 year-old Lanker at the Topeka Capital-Journal and was Lanker’s friend and mentor throughout his illustrious career, contributed substantially to the book and exhibition and raised the funds for the project.
O’Brien and John Loengard, another award-winning photographer, author and the former picture editor of LIFE magazine made the first edit for the book, and then Pentagram edited the picture selection further and organized the body of work into a semi-chronological order. The Pentagram team also established the sequencing and pacing of the color and black-and-white imagery shot in a variety of formats and divided up the sections of the book with spreads featuring quotes from Lanker’s vast network of admirers. These typographic spreads called “Voices” feature contributions from Loengard and Tharp, and a host of other friends and luminaries.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art recently hosted a conversation about making the book. Watch it here.