Words may strive to appeal to the logical portion of our minds. But the images captured by photojournalists – from Robert Capa‘s photos of heroic GIs struggling to reach shore on D-Day to UPI photographer Johnny Jenkins‘s outrage-provoking photo of African American high school student Elizabeth Eckford being harassed by a mob in Little Rock in 1957 – often take hold of our hearts and reach us on a more primal emotional level.
Bettye Lane, who died on Sept. 19 in New York at age 82, was to the women’s movement of the 1970s and 1980s what Capa was to World War II and Jenkins was to the civil rights movement. Lane was working for the now-defunct National Observer newspaper, the same publication that spawned gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, in 1970, when she was assigned to cover a protest by a then-nascent group, the National Organization for Women, which was demanding equal pay regardless of gender. Lane’s dramatic photos of of thousands of women marching through Manhattan were dramatic proof of feminism’s rising influence and potential to change society. She went on to shoot pictures of other rallies and events, and to create portraits of feminist leaders such as Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.
Lane also documented other events of that tumultuous era, from the antiwar and environmental movements to the aftermath of the Attica prison riot. Her startling image of a gay woman surrounded by policemen during the June 1969 Stonewall protest, which appears in the 2010 documentary Stonewall Uprising, became an iconic symbol of that group’s struggle for equality.
Lane’s photo of a nuclear disarmament protester in a wheelchair – emblazoned with the message “Build ramps not missiles” – prods a viewer to rethink society’s priorities. You can see more of Lane’s images at her personal website.