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Art Rogers dies at 93; L.A. Times photographer

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Art Rogers, an award-winning former longtime Los Angeles Times photographer best known for his sports coverage, has died. He was 93.

Rogers, who suffered a heart attack Dec. 16, died Tuesday in a skilled nursing facility near his home in Morro Bay, Calif., said his grandson, Jerry Rogers.

In a more than 40-year career with The Times that began in 1940 and included general assignment and feature photography, Rogers won the National Headliner Award, two Eclipse awards and a Look magazine award, among many others.

Rogers, whose photos were often picked up by Time, Life and Sports Illustrated, also was part of the editorial team whose coverage of the 1965 Watts riot earned The Times the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

"I always admired Art's work," said Bill Beebe, a former Times reporter and photographer who first met Rogers in the mid-1950s. "He was especially good at sports photography.

"Like all of us during that period, we shot mainly with 4-by-5 Speed Graphics, and those were a monster handicap in shooting sports. Art was a master at those cameras."

Retired Times photographer Rick Meyer recalled that Rogers "was always an early adopter of new technology."

As a sports photographer, Meyer said, "Art had a gift for being in the right place at the right time. He knew all sports inside and out and had an excellent timing…always pressing the shutter release at the perfect moment."

Rogers' desire to get a good picture had an unexpected result at the 1973 Rose Bowl game, after which he filed a complaint with police accusing Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes of assault.

Rogers alleged that Hayes rammed Rogers' camera back into his face as he was photographing the Buckeye coach huddling with team members a few minutes before the start of the game with USC, The Times reported at the time.

Rogers, who received temporary damage to his right eye, covered the first half of the game before going to the infirmary.

Hayes was questioned by two Pasadena police detectives before returning to Ohio. Ohio State officially apologized to The Times, according to a reference to the incident in a 1999 Times story, but Hayes never apologized to Rogers.

One of his best-known pictures had nothing to do with sports.

The prize-winning 1946 photo, a low-level shot taken in the early morning hours at what is now Los Angeles International Airport, shows two DC-3s in the distance and a line of about three dozen jack rabbits, all with their ears pointing upward.

"Someone was using a jackhammer and suddenly stopped and all the rabbit ears went up," Rogers recently told The Times' From the Archive photo blog.

The bunny picture, later dubbed "L.A. Hareport," was picked up by Life magazine.

In another memorable photo, shot in 1977, Rogers captured a horse and rider watching as the space shuttle Enterprise was towed from a Rockwell International facility in Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base for test flights.

Rogers' career at The Times also included taking pictures of early atomic bomb tests in Nevada and visiting world leaders such as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

Born Aug. 23, 1918, in Los Angeles, Rogers studied photography at Fremont High School. After selling his first picture to The Times in 1937, he covered high school sports and spot news for the paper, earning $2 for each published picture before joining the staff in 1940.

A member of the Naval Reserve, he served as a Navy photographer in the South Pacific during World War II.

Rogers, who was a mentor to many younger photographers at the paper, later said he was "happiest when making pictures" and once had 22 of his photos appear in one Sunday paper.

After Rogers retired from The Times in 1983, his grandson said, "he did lots of fishing and still did a lot of photography — wildlife photography and such. He'd always keep a camera in the car and anything he thought was interesting, he'd just grab a shot."

Rogers was preceded in death by his wife, Naomi; and his two sons, Jerry and Al.

In addition to his grandson, Rogers is survived by his two granddaughters, Dawn Rogers and Stephanie Snyder; and three great-grandchildren.

A private memorial service will be held.

dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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