Jerry Cooke

Born in Odessa, Ukraine in 1921, Yuri Kutschuk and his family emigrated to Milan, Italy and then to Berlin, Germany in 1923. While in Berlin, Yuri’s father, George Kutschuk sold photographs to European publications. Yuri’s Aunt, Cecile Kutschuk, worked at the Associated Press, with Wilson Hicks, who later became Executive Editor in charge of photography for LIFE Magazine. In 1936, after Hitler’s rise to power, the family fled back to Italy, where they then had to flee from Mussolini’s regime to Bombay, India. In Bombay they lived in the Outram Private Hotel owned by his uncle, George Azrilenko. In 1939, the family emigrated to Seattle from Japan on the “Hiye Mare.” Once in the U.S. his name was anglicized, Jerry Cooke.

Cecile Kutschuk, who had studied photojournalism at the Rhine University, emigrated to the United States in 1935, and started a photo agency in New York City called Pix, Inc. She gave Jerry his first camera, a Rolleiflex. Cecile Kutschuk put him to work in the Pix darkroom, where he apprenticed with photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, George Karger, and others. In 1945, on V-Day in New York, Jerry Cooke apprenticed with Eisenstaedt when “Eisie” photographed the iconic image of the nurse and sailor kissing in Times Square.

Cooke had several cover stories in LIFE between the forties and sixties, including LIFE En Espanol. He also did regular work for Fortune, Colliers, Time, Sport’s Illustrated and European Publications. In 1948, Cooke, Robert Capa, and Tim Gidal traveled to Israel to photograph the new state for the book, This Is Israel, written by I. F. Stone.

In 1950, Fortune’s Art Director Leo Lionni hired Cooke to document Milwaukee factories. Cooke spent the entire summer visiting and photographing 26 factories. Cooke considered this essay an “epic effort,” photographing in both color and black & white. The article, “Made in Milwaukee,” appeared in November 1950.

A founding member of the Society of Magazine Photographers, now called the American Society of Media Photographers, Jerry Cooke served as ASMP president from 1951- 1952. During his presidency, ASMP News became a magazine and was licensed by the State of New York to act as a Labor Union.

The award-winning photo “Ohio Insane Asylum” and other photographs of Cooke’s were selected for the international exhibition, The Family of Man, 1955 curated by Edward Steichen for The Museum of Modem Art. Keith Davis and Donald Hall called Cooke’s contribution “one of the periods most influential bodies of work” – The American Century of Photography.

In 1956, Cooke was one of the first westerners permitted to photograph in post-Stalin Russia. After reading the book “Dr. Zhivago” Cooke decided to visit its author. He found Boris Pastemak in his garden and gave him the book. He stayed for the day and took lots of photos of the writer, his wife and his dog. Soon after, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Photographers Bradley Smith and Jerry Cooke founded the picture agency, Animals Animals In 1969. The agency was sold in the late 1970′s and renamed Animals, Animals / Earth Scenes,

During the late 1980s, Cooke traveled to and photographed the conditions of major over populated cities. His photographs were published in The Exploding City  in 1989 by the United Nations.

Jerry Cooke shot 47 covers for Sports Illustrated, including many from the early days starting in 1954. Cooke was the Director of Photography for Sports Illustrated in 1974.

Jerry Cooke spoke five languages, visited five continents and well over a hundred countries. He has photographed 16 Olympics and 42 Kentucky Derbys. Jerry Cooke passed away, October 27, 2005.

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