During his 50 year career as a photographer and photojournalist, Leigh Wiener photographed every U.S. President from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan; Hollywood legends from Marilyn Monroe to Marlon Brando; musicians from Miles Davis to Frank Sinatra; poets, scientists, playwrights and industry titans.
Born in 1929, Wiener grew up in New York City, where his father worked as a newspaper man. Arthur “Wegee” Felig, a family friend who worked as a freelance news photographer, first taught Wiener to look at pictures. By age 15, he had sold a photo to Collier’s Weekly.
In 1946 he moved to California, working at the Los Angeles Times library while attending UCLA. His first big break as a photographer came in 1949, when he shot the empty swing that belonged to three year old Kathy Fiscus. Tragically, the toddler captured the world’s attention after she fell down an abandoned well. By the time rescuers reached her two days later, she had died. Wiener’s poignant photo ran on the front page of more than 150 papers around the country.
Wiener went on to become a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times and then shot freelance for LIFE, Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and many more. He was especially drawn to the technical side of photography, and was known for developing unique and custom lens combinations and setups.
In 1967 Wiener expanded into film and television documentaries, producing A Slice of Sunday, a film about professional football, with a custom camera system he designed. His work was later lauded by the Motion Picture Editors Guild for innovation in broadcasting.
In 1975 he created the Emmy Award-winning half hour television show Talk about Pictures on KNBC, Channel 4 in Los Angeles. Wiener co-hosted the program with George Fenneman on which they discussed photographs and photography with an eclectic group of invited guests. Among those who appeared on the show are Ansel Adams, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Betty White, Richard Chamberlain, David Cassidy and Graham Nash.
Leigh Wiener produced several books during his lifetime including Here Comes Me (1966), How Do You Photograph People? (1982), Tijuana Sunday (1989), and Marilyn: A Hollywood Farewell (1990). Two more books have been released by his estate including Johnny Cash: Photographs by Leigh Wiener (2006) and Alcatraz: The Last Day (2012).
In the mid-1980s Wiener began working to produce an archive of hand-printed silver gelatin prints of many of his most popular photographs across several genres including portraits of icons of Hollywood, Music, Literature, Sports, and Politics. He meticulously preserved these pieces with detailed notes and specifications for his legacy and this is the collection that is now being made available today. Many of these photographs were printed in very small quantities but all are exceptionally rare in the collectible market.
Leigh Wiener's photographs are in the permanent collections of several national museums including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. He passed away in 1993.
Both his hand-printed signed original photographs and estate-authorized imagery are available through San Francisco Art Exchange. Please don't hesitate to inquire about available imagery!