Austin, Texas—Due to the generosity of Ms. Kathryn Leigh Scott, the Briscoe Center is now home to the photographic archive of Ben Martin, who for thirty-five years was a senior photographer for Time magazine. Martin was known for his political photography, his documentation of foreign wars, and his classy portrayals of arts and fashion subjects, primarily for Time but also for Life, People, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.
“Ben Martin had a knack for communicating the candid humanity of high-profile subjects, be it Jackie Kennedy’s sorrow at her husband’s funeral or Richard Nixon’s haggard look during the 1960 presidential debates,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “His phenomenally rich archives join those of many other Time photographers, news photojournalists, and documentary photographers who were able to so comprehensively capture American life in the second half of the twentieth century.”
Martin was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, in 1930. He was given his first camera at the age of eight and started working for the Salisbury Post when he was fifteen. He became the youngest ever member of the National Press Association at seventeen. Martin subsequently joined Time magazine as a copyboy but quickly worked his way up, becoming the magazine’s first full time staff photographer in 1957. Working for Time meant covering a wide array of subjects, including fashion, politics, arts, business, and sports. Later he traveled internationally, covering everything from foreign wars to arctic expeditions and papal visits. He is perhaps best known for his defining images of Fidel Castro, Malcom X, and Richard Nixon, the latter shunning Martin for twenty-five years in retaliation for his candid, unflattering shot during the 1960 presidential debate.
In 1965, Martin spent long stretches of the famous Selma to Montgomery march walking backward in order to document Martin Luther King and other civil rights protesters. The photographer was, in the words of United States Attorney General John Doar, “the best shield Dr. King could have.” In 1966, Martin was dispatched to England to document art and fashion in London. The resulting cover study helped immortalize the city’s reputation as the beating heart of the “Swingin’ Sixties.”
In 1970, Martin traveled to Normandy, France, to cover the twenty-fifth anniversary of D-Day. In 1975, he photographed pilot Paul Tibbets in the Enola Gay B-17 bomber over Hiroshima, Japan, for the thirtieth anniversary of the atomic attacks that ended World War II. During the visit he also photographed Iyozoh Fujita, who led the second wave attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, with a Mitsubishi Zero fighter. Later he covered the fortieth anniversaries of both Pearl Harbor and the atomic bombings.
Martin retired from Time-Life in 1989 to work as a freelancer for corporate clients. He was the author of Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime and the co-author of A Different World: The Great Hotels of the World. His archives, approximately 66 linear feet, document the full breadth of his career and include negatives, transparencies, prints, and tear sheets, as well as business correspondence, field notes, and research materials.
“I’m pleased that Ben Martin’s historically significant photographs, and the stories behind them, will be available for study and research at the Briscoe Center, along with the archives of so many of his illustrious colleagues,” said Kathryn Lee Scott, Martin’s former wife and publishing partner.