Flip Schulke/Photojournalist Biography

Flip Schulke, a native of New Ulm, Minnesota and a 1954 graduate of Macalester College, has been taking photographs for fifty-five years, ever since he received a Kodak “Baby Brownie Special” camera when he was fifteen years old. Working most of his career as a freelance photographer, Schulke has earned national and international accolades as a photojournalist. He received his first formal training as a photojournalist at Macalester, where he was a journalism major and photographer for the school yearbook and the Mac Weekly. Within a few years after graduating from Macalester, Schulke was shooting for such prestigious magazines as Life, National Geographic, and Ebony. He has been represented by Black Star Picture Agency since 1953.

Acclaimed for his photographs of Fidel Castro and John F. Kennedy, Schulke is most famous for his photo documentation of the U.S. civil rights movement. Schulke spent much of the next decade traveling with and photographing Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Much of his work in this area is documented in three of his books—Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Documentary, Montgomery to Memphis (1976); King Remembered (1986); and He Had a Dream (1995). All books are published by W. W. Norton & Company and are still in print.

At the same time he was being recognized domestically for his work in the civil rights movement, Schulke was also earning an international reputation as a pioneer in underwater photography, a skill he began developing in 1955. Never just a “fish photographer,” Schulke applied his photojournalist skills to the underwater environment, primarily photographing people working or playing underwater. He was the principal photojournalist for many underwater scientific studies, including archaeological, paleontological, and biological projects that took him to marine and freshwater environments around the world, from the South Pacific to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, often with French explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Much of Schulke's reputation in underwater photography comes from his contributions to the technology required to do this sort of photography. Dissatisfied with the optical distortions produced by the wide angle lenses he normally used to photograph underwater stories, Schulke pioneered the dome ports that are now standard equipment in the industry. These ports eliminated most of the optical distortion produced by the wide angle lenses, thereby transforming the field of underwater photojournalism by allowing photographers to shoot panoramic as well as close up scenes. His book Underwater Photography for Everyone (Prentice-Hall, 1976) was the authoritative source for the general underwater photographer for more than a decade.

Schulke has been the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, including: 1995, the Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism, from the National Press Photographer Association; 1986, First Annual New York State Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Freedom; 1983, Golden Trident, from the Government of Italy for his accomplishments in underwater photography; and 1967, Underwater Photographer of the Year—USA, from the International Underwater film and photography competition, Santa Monica, California.

Schulke's most recent book is Muhammad Ali: The Birth of a Legend, Miami, 1961-1964 (St. Martin's, 2000). Schulke is also finishing a book on his photographic career and a book on the history of the Berlin Wall from 1962 through 1999. His literary agent is Jennifer Lyons of Writers House, New York City.

Schulke's entire photo archive of approximately a half million original photographs will reside after four years at the Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. A large number of the original color slides and black-and-white negatives will be transferred to CD-ROM and will be available through the Center. Formal and informal print exhibitions will travel throughout the United States and abroad from late 1999.

CONTACTS: Ben Chapnick/Black Star: (212) 679-3288
Jennifer Lyons/Writers House: (212) 685-2663