Kurt Markus, Photographer of Cowboys and Models, Is Dead at 75

Gerard Ortiz

The award-winning photographer Kurt Markus led a life and career that seemed as huge and different as the Western landscapes he captured on movie.

As a West Point graduate and a former Army Ranger, he felt at home in the rugged outside, and he could load film whilst traveling on horseback at a trot. Though he was celebrated as a wonderful artist and a chronicler of the American West, he also rose to the pinnacle of his career taking pictures Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington for top fashion journals, as perfectly as developing gallery-worthy portraits of amusement luminaries like Meryl Streep, Paul Simon and B.B. King.

Mr. Markus died on June 12 at his dwelling in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 75.

His demise was confirmed by his spouse, Maria Markus, who mentioned he had suffered from Parkinson’s condition and Lewy human body dementia.

Mr. Markus, who was from rural Montana, acquired his 1st digicam at the PX at Fort Carson, Colo., whilst he was stationed there in the early 1970s, and taught himself how to use it. He quickly arrived to check out a lifetime at the rear of the lens as a vocation, if not a privilege.

“I’ve often related the click on of the shutter with ‘yes,’ that you like what you see,” Mr. Markus claimed in a 2011 job interview with the web page aPhotoEditor.com. “I by no means considered of photography as a occupation.”

Motivated by the haunting landscapes of the West taken by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, Mr. Markus, who bought his start as a skilled photographer for Western Horseman magazine, was known for timeless black-and-white visuals that captured both of those the solitude and the grandeur of the vanishing frontier.

“He was happiest when he was in the West, capturing these pictures that he was carefully linked to,” Peter Fetterman, the operator of Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., just one of the galleries that represented Mr. Markus, said in an interview. “He lived what he photographed. Other Western pictures seem voyeuristic in comparison.”

Mr. Markus printed three publications of pictures of modern-day-day cowboys taken on distant ranches, starting off in 1985 with “After Barbed Wire: Cowboys of Our Time.” In the course of these shoots, he lived like the buckaroos and cowpunchers (two phrases he applied in reserve titles) he trained his lens on.

“He was like a survivalist when he was out with the cowboys,” explained Maria Markus, who was her husband’s agent and producer. After, she extra, “he slept less than a wagon in the snow, freezing cold in his bedroll, since there was no place in the bunkhouse.”

The grueling do the job paid off.

“If everyone steals the show,” The New Yorker wrote when reviewing a 2009 exhibition named “America the Beautiful” at the Staley-Intelligent Gallery in Manhattan, which also represented Mr. Markus, “it’s Kurt Markus, whose six photos (many of cowboys) are quietly, unfailingly artful.”

The celebrated photographer Bruce Weber, a close friend due to the fact the 1980s, praised Mr. Markus’s cinematic landscapes of Monument Valley in Utah, a favored topic above the decades.

“His Monument Valley get the job done is just extraordinary,” Mr. Weber stated in an job interview for a tribute to Mr. Markus penned by the writer Hampton Sides, a pal and neighbor in Santa Fe. “He went there for a long time, and whilst he caught one thing diverse with every take a look at, the images generally experienced the identical quality of reverence and majesty.”

Inspite of the lure of open areas, Mr. Markus hardly ever let his fascination with Western motifs determine his job.

He labored for journals like Harper’s Bazaar and French Vogue, photographed promotion strategies for Armani and Calvin Klein, and directed new music films for Jewel and Tori Amos, as well as, with his son Ian, “It’s About You,” a 2012 documentary about John Mellencamp’s 2009 summer tour.

In 1999, Everyday living magazine awarded Mr. Markus the Alfred Eisenstaedt Images Award. He also received various Clio Awards for his promotion get the job done.

Around time, the stars of fashion embraced Mr. Markus as their have.

“A accurate artist,” Cindy Crawford wrote in an Instagram post immediately after his demise. “Your operate was both equally stunning and wonderfully trustworthy.”

That is not to say that he enable the label “fashion photographer” define him, both.

“Even even though he was one particular of the incredibly best photographers in the fashion world, to call him a fashion photographer wouldn’t be fairly accurate,” Ms. Turlington, who traveled with Mr. Markus to considerably-flung locales like Madagascar and Mount Kilimanjaro for shoots, was quoted as stating in Mr. Sides’s tribute.

“He sees the place, the angles, the composition, the options,” she extra. “His brain is often heading. But there is a tranquil curiosity and a perception of regard that encourages you to be free and permits surprises to occur.”

Mr. Markus also, his wife mentioned, lobbied to make vogue shoots extra inclusive.

In 1994, he traveled to Savannah, Ga., for Mirabella journal to shoot a prolonged manner distribute that he and Ms. Markus forged on neighborhood streets and in malls, making use of Black people as his versions. In 1993, he shot a fashion spread for The New York Situations Magazine identified as “The Seem of the Nineties” that showcased nonagenarians attired in the latest seems to be from Jean Paul Gaultier and Romeo Gigli.

Kurt Michael Markus was born on April 6, 1947, in Whitefish, Mont., a historic logging and railroad city in the Rocky Mountains. He was the more mature of two children of Raymond Markus, who worked in the family current market, and Juanita (Johnson) Markus, a homemaker.

From an early age, Mr. Markus liked the outside and was a standout athlete (as a West Stage cadet, he excelled at throwing the javelin). Irrespective, he realized that his future lay beyond the encompassing cattle ranches.

“I was born a daydreamer,” Mr. Markus wrote in the foreword of his e book “Buckaroo: Illustrations or photos From the Sagebrush Basin” (1987), “and I know of no slot for just one of people on any ranch.”

Adventure was typically part of his operate. “Once, on assignment in Yemen, he was kidnapped at gunpoint,” Mr. Sides said in an interview. “But Kurt was this kind of a charmer, so relaxed and composed, that he someway managed to acquire about his captors. They stole his digital camera gear, but they released him, without a scratch.”

But he also located solace in very long several hours expended in the darkroom. He was a master printer who favored his medium-structure Pentax movie camera to the “gimmicks and mental overlays,” as he when place it, of the digital age.

“I appear from an before era, predigital, and have viewed no cause to stop the form of photography that has challenged and nourished me considering that I commenced earning shots, in earnest, 4 a long time back,” he said in an essay for an exhibition known as “Monument Valley: 2002-2017” at Obscura Gallery in Santa Fe, which also represented him. “In that time, I have developed at ease with film’s restrictions, even to the point of embracing them.”

There ended up no shortcuts. “For each and every a person print he would have signed,” Mr. Fetterman explained, “he would have wrecked 20 or 30 for the reason that they weren’t absolutely fantastic.”

Mr. Markus’s marriage to Debra Jean Spencer finished in 1980. He married Maria Donoghue in 1983. In addition to her, he is survived by their sons, Weston and Ian a daughter from his initial marriage, Jade Markus and a sister, Shelley Love.

His physique was cremated. Ms. Markus claimed she prepared to honor his needs to have his ashes buried in a remote cemetery in the previous mining town of Tuscarora, in Nevada’s Wonderful Basin, close to where by he shot some of his early cowboy pictures.

“When I visited him a number of weeks in advance of he died,” Mr. Sides reported, “I asked him, ‘Why did you decide on this sort of a lonesome and desolate and faraway spot to be buried?’ He smiled and explained, ‘I didn’t want people to come to feel guilty for not coming to see me right after I’m long gone.’”

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