Tribute to Brian Hendler

Brian was an honorable and honest man. His biggest satisfaction was to see that his photos were published.

March 3, 2016 11:31
2 minute read.

A woman shields her child from the wind while walking on sand dunes in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in this June 22, 2014, photograph. (photo credit: FACEBOOK,BRIAN HENDLER)

 From 1998 until 2011, I served as the spokesman to the International Media at The Jewish Agency for Israel. In this capacity, I got to know Brian Hendler, who died last week at the age of 63.

Initially, I worked with him when he was the staff photographer of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and covered activities of the Jewish Agency. When JTA cut out the position of staff photographer in Israel, and Brian started working as a freelance photographer, I jumped at the opportunity to give him work covering Jewish Agency events.

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He took amazing photos and understood what type of material editors were looking for.

Together we built a database of Jewish newspapers worldwide for distribution of photos of Jewish Agency events which Brian had taken.

Similarly he had his own distribution list of international media in Israel and local newspapers.

Brian understood that a picture speaks a thousand words, and he knew how to not only take excellent pictures but also to write applicable captions to the photos.

In the days before digital photography, Brian had to develop the photos and deliver them to the various newspaper bureaus in Jerusalem.

Brian was very diligent and efficient, and as at the time The Jerusalem Post was unable to pay photographers for their work and rights for the photos, Brian’s modest fee covered by the Jewish Agency also included a fee for rights and distribution which benefited the Jewish Agency by the fact that photos of its activities were readily published, because they were made available gratis to the Post and all the other media.

Brian was an honorable and honest man who never padded or inflated his invoices. His biggest satisfaction was to see that his photos were published.

During the years that I got to know Brian, he would occasionally share with me stories of events that he had covered.

He had a special sense of humor, and was always down-to-earth and modest, despite his numerous photographic awards and accomplishments.

Not many people are aware that when Nelson Mandela assumed the presidency of South Africa, Brian was hired by the South African Atomic Energy Commission to document in photos the dismantling of South Africa’s nuclear capability.

As a South African, Brian was very proud of having been part of this historic event and to have also had the opportunity to photograph Mandela on numerous occasions.

I vividly remember that when I informed Brian in 2011 that I had been offered early retirement from The Jewish Agency, he told me that, with the advent of digital photography, he felt that his days as a freelance photographer were numbered, as everybody would soon start taking their own photos with digital cameras and cellular phones. He felt that the only professional press photographers who would continue working would be those who had contracts with news agencies and big newspapers.

His assessment of the situation proved correct and Brian found employment in other fields including modeling clothes and sunglasses. Nevertheless he never gave up his love of photography and whatever work he did, he always took along his camera.

Brian’s camera was his connection to other people and his way of staying in touch with the world.

May his memory be a blessing.

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