Leonard Kemsler, a dissecting golf photographer, dies at 85

Leonard Kemsler, a photo journalist whose award-winning photographs of professional golf for nearly 50 years pushed the envelope of sports strobe photography as he produced a group of more than 200,000 images on the PGA Tour on November 18 in Bethel, NY has expired. 85.

Her husband and only immediate survivor, Stephen Lyles, said the cause was organ failure. Mr. Kansler had homes in Bethel and Manhattan.

PGA President of America Jim Richerson called Mr. Kamsler “the undisputed dean of golf photography”. Last month, Mr. Kansler became the first recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in photojournalism.

Practically half of that lifetime was spent on the golf course, though a camera lagging instead of clubs. Starting in 1963, he covered 40 consecutive Masters tournaments, 17 PGA championships and 22 US Opens, which liberates action moments in indelible images.

“His ability to take the right picture at the right time was unsurpassed by anyone in the business,” champion golfer Tom Watson said in a videotaped tribute when Mr. Kamsler received the lifetime achievement award.

Mr. Kamsler’s technological innovations in high-speed strobe photography broke the entire arc of a golf swing from start to end in stop-motion exposure – from contact to backresting through contact – each position of the hand, arm, leg with a pinwheel. Contained in a single sequential image of, legs, torso, head and club.

George Pemper, who was his editor at Golf Magazine for 25 of Mr. Kamsler’s 60 years of association with the publication, said it was Mr. Kamsler who “made the swing-sequence in golf without question.”

“Learned at Edgerton’s knee,” said Mr. Kansler, who mentions Harold Aggerton, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who pioneered stroboscopic technology. In 1957, Mr. Kamsler began consulting with Mr. Ejerton.

He also developed a close relationship with Charles Hulcher, who developed a special camera to record the study of the slow speed of rocket launches.

Mr. Kamsler’s primary device was a hawking Hulcher High-speed 35-millimeter camera, originally designed to shoot at some 70 frames per second. He was able to take the limit to 100, and then 200, frames per second – meaning that he could dissect the entire golf swing in lightning-fast exposures of less than three seconds.

Arnold Palmer’s technique and Mr. Kamsler’s first gradual stop-motion study of Clubhead Dynamics, “created a sensation,” Mr. Pepper said, as a teaching tool “It was posted on the wall of every golf instructor in America . “

Mr. Kamsler documented over 400 golf-swing scenes from other champion golfers, including Sam Snade, Jack Nicklaus, Kathy Whitworth, and Tiger Woods.

During a tournament he may be innovative in catching the action. One risky technique was to make yourself fall to the ground with your camera and hit the world’s best golfers on your head. During a practice-tee setup, he held Mr. Nicklaus so close to him that the golfer’s explosive shots missed destroying Mr. Kamsler’s lens.

According to the PGA, Mr. Kamsler was the first photographer to install remote-control cameras behind the notoriously challenging holes 12 and 15 at Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters is played.

Disgusting photographs were being taken with some golfers during the competition, so Mr. Kamsler would resort to the sub-asylum. He once hid himself in a garbage bag to snap camera-shy Australian Bruce Crampton.

Starting in the 1970s, Mr. Kamsler expanded his territory to profile artists in Nashville, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Wylan Jennings, Tammy Winnett and Loretta Lynn. Many of his photos became the cover of the record album.

His collection of music pictures was recently purchased by Country music hall of fame And the museum in Nashville, where there are many scenes. More than 20 photos of him were featured in the 2019 documentary series “Country Music” by Ken Burns for PBS.

Mr. Kansler’s strobe-lighting work also reached beyond golf. He designed a complex strobe system to capture the first attempt at a quintuple somerset by the Flying Cranes Aerial Troop of the Moscow Circus. Photo ran inside The New York Times Magazine December 30, 1990, with a cover article about the troupe.

A circus aficionado, he also associated the performance of stage acts of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, and magicians Siegfried & Roy.

As a PGA Tour fixture, Mr. Kamsler can hardly be ignored. Over the years he arrived at events in his Candy-Apple-Red, tail-finished Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, his six-foot frame adorned in a golf shirt with a pair of suspenders in polyester slacks entangled in polyx slacks.

His primary sports outlet was Golf Magazine, where he was a contract photographer from 1959 to 2019. His photographs also appeared in several books.

The golfer was part of the task of photographing players sensitive to any distraction while playing pushback. Mr. Kamsler “occasionally bites the shark”, said Greg Norman, a Hall of Famer nicknamed the shark.

“He understood what a shark bite meant,” Mr. Norman said in the video tribute, “that I was intense – and I was in my moment.”

Once, with actor Jack Nicholson in Miami shooting the “18 holes” with the celebrity-golfing feature, Mr. Kamsler reached out to push the bill of Mr. Nicholson’s hat as it was hiding his eyes. “Nobody touches Jake’s hat!” Mr. Nicholson barks.

Leonard Macon Kemsler was born on October 18, 1935 in Raleigh, NC to Morton and Helen (Strother) Kemsler. His father owned a retail store, and his mother was a housewife. His father gave Leonard his first camera at the age of 12. He graduated from Bretton High School in Rawley in 1957 and then moved to Manhattan in 1957, becoming the celebrity photographer Milton H. Became a $ 32-week assistant for Green. His first job was to photograph Marilyn Monroe.

After a stint in the military, Mr. Kemsler returned to Manhattan and began to find a job as a freelance photographer.

Her passion for strobe photography led her to golf – for opportunities to “catch the pace”, Mr. Liles, her husband, said, “They started knocking at the door, until they took pictures of them Won’t see. “

Mr. Kamsler sold his library of over 200,000 images to PopperPhoto in partnership with Getty Images in 2018.

For all his involvement with golf, the game is never considered more than his shutter finger. After a lifetime of tournament trudging, Mr. Kamsler was proud to say, “I never played a single game of golf.”

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