In Memoriam: Graeme Phelps "Flip" Schulke, 1930–2008
Martin Luther King Jr. walks with civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, 1965. By Flip Schulke. Schulke (Flip) Photographic Archive, CAH; e_fs_0853_IMG0054.
The Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin mourns the death of Flip Schulke, the highly regarded photographer who documented the civil rights movement and became internationally known for his pioneering work in underwater photography. Over the course of a more than 40-year career as a freelance photographer, Schulke photographed national and international figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Muhammad Ali. Flip Schulke died in West Palm Beach, Florida, on May 15, 2008.
Schulke donated his collection of more than 500,000 images to the Center in 1999. Approximately 10,000 of them document Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. Recalling the significance of Schulke's pictorial record of the civil rights period, Dr. Don Carleton said, "Dr. King allowed Mr. Schulke to take candid photos of his daily life, making the Schulke archive an outstanding research and teaching resource for the history of the civil rights movement."
Born Graeme Phelps Schulke in New Ulm, Minnesota, on June 24, 1930, Schulke began to take photographs at the age of 15, when he received a Kodak "Baby Brownie Special" camera. He honed his skills in photography at Macalester College, where he majored in journalism and served as the photographer for the Mac Weekly, the school yearbook. Soon after completing his degree, Schulke began to take photographs for Life, National Geographic, and Ebony magazines.
While on assignment for Ebony in 1958, Schulke met Martin Luther King Jr., who as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the leading figure in America's civil rights movement. The two men became friends, and King allowed Schulke unlimited access to document the organization for the next ten years. Schulke later published three books on his coverage of this important era—Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Documentary, Montgomery to Memphis, (1976) King Remembered (1986), and He Had a Dream (1995).
In September 1999, during events commemorating the unveiling of the 12-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, the Center for American History hosted an exhibit of 60 of Schulke's images and Schulke's lecture "Remembering Dr. King: Photographing the Civil Rights Movement."
A diver from Jacques Cousteau's research ship, the Calypso, works during the filming of a movie near Madagascar. By Flip Schulke. Schulke (Flip) Photographic Archive, CAH; e_fs_1603_IMG0119.
Schulke's other passion was underwater photography, and led to his groundbreaking contributions to the field. He pioneered dome ports that helped eliminate optical distortion, thus allowing the shooting of panoramic and close-up scenes. He also served as the principal photojournalist for numerous archaeological, paleontological, and biological projects from the South Pacific to Lake Titicaca, often working with French explorer Jacques Cousteau. His book Underwater Photography for Everyone (1976) became the standard in the field for over a decade. He other photography specialties were auto racing, the space program, and the history of the Berlin Wall.
Flip Schulke was recognized with many awards, including the 1967 Underwater Photographer of the Year Award, the 1983 Golden Trident from the Government of Italy, the 1986 First Annual New York State Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom, and 1995 Crystal Eagle Award for Impact in Photojournalism from the National Press Photographer Association.