TUCSON, Ariz. – Acclaimed photographer Dan Budnik, noted for his portraits of artists in New York in the 1960s and documenting the civil rights movement and Native American culture, has died. He was 87.
Budnik died last Friday of natural causes at an assisted living facility in Tucson, nephew Kim Newton said Monday.
In 1958, Budnik photographed the Youth March for Integrated Schools and the March on Washington in 1963 as well as every stage of the Selma to Montgomery March in Alabama in 1965.
Budnik also was known for his striking portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just moments after his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington. Time magazine chose one of Budnik’s portraits of King for its “I Have a Dream” 50th anniversary issue in 2013.
Born in Mineola, Long Island, Budnik followed his sister Vera to Los Angeles but returned to New York after graduating high school to study painting.
He was accepted into the prestigious Magnum Photos group in 1957 and photographed atrocities in Cuba the following year. His Cuba photos were published in Life, Sports Illustrated and Vogue magazines.
He also produced portraits of abstract expressionist artists he befriended in New York in the late 1950s and '60s, including Willem de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler.
By the late 1960s, Budnik began to devote much of his time to Native American causes. He photographed the elders of 20 Native American nations across the country.
Friendships he built within the Hopi Tribe led him to settle in Arizona in the late 1970s.
Budnik also befriended famed painter Georgia O’Keeffe and often stayed with her at the Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. He shot a series of iconic images of O’Keeffe, which were published in People magazine in 1975.
Budnik was awarded the American Society of Media Photographers Honor Award in 1999.
Newton said his uncle “could capture moments” and “cared about the underdog.” Budnik saw things from a unique point of view, his nephew said.
“He had a very good sense of people and how those people were reacting to the times, and he could capture that essence. I think that was one of his greatest skills,” said Newton, a photojournalism professor at the University of Arizona.
Budnik also is survived by son Aaron Budnik, who is a rare-books dealer in London, and grandson Riley Budnik.
Newton said Budnik is scheduled to be buried Wednesday at Camp Navajo west of Flagstaff, where he used to live.
This story has been corrected based on updated information to accurately refer to the years Budnik lived in Flagstaff and that Camp Navajo is outside that city.