Born: Colchester, England, UK
Ralph Theodore Morse (October 23, 1917 – December 7, 2014) was a career staff photographer for Life magazine known for his inventive mind and his creative style. Encyclopedias and history books abound with his photos, as he photographed some of the most widely seen pictures of World War II, the United States space program, and sports events. He was most celebrated for his multiple-exposure photographs. Morse's success as an improviser led to his being considered Life magazine's specialist in technical photography. Former managing editor George P. Hunt declared that "If [the] equipment he needed didn't exist, [Morse] built it." During his thirty years at Life, Morse covered every type of assignment from science to theater, from fads to spot news. When first hired by Life and sent to photograph World War II, he was the youngest war correspondent. His pictures documented the war's Pacific and European theatres and the post-war reconstruction of Europe. Morse was the civilian photographer at the signing of the surrender by the Germans to General Dwight Eisenhower. He was the senior staff photographer at the time when Life ceased weekly publication. Morse photographed the NASA space program from its inception, an assignment which outlasted Life as a weekly magazine. On November 6, 2009 LIFE.com unveiled a photo retrospective of Project Mercury, America's first human spaceflight program. Most of this photo collection is credited to Morse, as he had been exclusively assigned by Life to cover the space program. Over the early decades of the space program, Morse became an insider at NASA, providing him with the privileged access which helped produce some of the most iconic images of NASA projects. On July 15, 2009, LIFE.com published a photo gallery of never-before-seen photos Morse took of Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong in the days before their Apollo mission. In the gallery, Morse talks with Life about Apollo 11 and the astronauts who first landed on the moon. Morse held deeply the belief that photos lend a unique understanding to the world in which we live. Photographer Jim McNitt, who worked with Morse on several Time magazine assignments in the 1970s, described him as a fun-loving extrovert who was delighted to mentor an aspiring photojournalist. "Watching Ralph plan his shots, respond to editors, and deal with reluctant subjects with off-hand humor taught me things I couldn't learn in photo magazines or workshops," said McNitt. Former Life managing editor George P. Hunt proclaimed of Morse, "If Life could afford only one photographer, it would have to be Ralph Morse."
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