Bob Chamberlin, 1968

Our BHS’68 classmate, Bob Chamberlin, who started at the Los Angeles Times in 1979, was the first Times photographer to go into a war zone, traveling to El Salvador in 1981. He went to Haiti in 1985, where he photographed Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier two months before the dictator fled the country. In 1986, he became a senior photo editor and helped shape coverage on events including presidential election conventions, the First Gulf War in Iraq and the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. After the riots, he volunteered to return to the field as a photographer working for City Times in hopes of photographing healing in the city. On the Metro photo staff, he covered a variety of assignments in Los Angeles and he also worked as a weekend photo editor for the Sunday edition. He left the Times in 2015.

Here is Part 1 of his timeline. I asked Bob to share some of his best photos.

We graduated high school during a tumultuous pivotal year.  Who knew!

I remember photographing Richard Nixon at a stop he made at Burbank High during the presidential campaign. That year started out with the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam and the capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea.  Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The Democratic convention in Chicago erupted in rioting.  Richard Nixon was elected president.  Apollo 8, a manned mission, orbited the moon.

Into all that we marched, fresh from BHS.

I feel that I learned to be a fly on the wall, an observer, which suited my personality and served me well in 45 years as a news photographer.

I enjoyed my history and English classes at BHS and it turned out that I got to watch history unfold before me in my career.

SEPTEMBER 1968 – JUNE 1970 – Attended LA Valley College, took journalism classes and worked really hard as I wanted to impress a woman I met in journalism.  Photographed Angela Davis and my first demonstration in 1970 when then Governor Ronald Reagan shut down the California University system to avoid violent reaction after the Kent State shootings.

SEPTEMBER 1970 – JUNE 1973 – Attended San Fernando Valley State College and majored in Journalism.  Photographed William Kunstler, Tom Hayden and some of the Chicago 7 defendants,  The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Jane Fonda and was taken into custody on May 5, 1971 during a Kent State anniversary demonstration in Northridge.

MARCH 1973 – MAY 1978 – Landed a part-time night lab job at the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle where I learned my craft as I worked there for 5 years . Photographed joy, beauty and tragedy during those years and won a couple of State photo awards.  Was the photo editor there for 2 1/2 years.

President Jimmy Carter points a water canon at the press boat as he toured San Francisco Bay. The press boat had accidentally drifted too close to the presidential tug boat and he was joking with us. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin)

MAY 1978 – JANUARY 1979 – Quit my job and traveled to Spain, studying Spanish in Valencia for two months. Then traveled around the US a little and went to Israel where I lived for three months in Jerusalem with my girlfriend who was doing a year abroad.  Met Correspondent Dial Torgerson there and worked on a couple of stories with him including a memorial service for Golda Meir.

JANUARY 1979 – Returned from Israel and got hired on as a temporary photographer at the Los Angeles Times.

JANUARY 1980 – Hired full time at the Los Angeles Times.

MAY 1980 – Replaced injured Times photographer after Mount St Helens erupted in Washington to cover search and recovery for the Los Angeles Times.

The Mount St. Helen’s crater continued to spew out ash and smoke as they flew over. Bob was making photos when the helicopter crew chief started waving his arms sit down because they were afraid that the mountain was going to explode again. It didn’t.


Rescue worker smoking a cigarette through his ash filtering mask at Mount St. Helens. It had rained and the raindrops carried the still-circulating ash all over the countryside. You can see ash drops on top of the VW van. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin)

SPRING 1981 – Went with Dial Torgerson to El Salvador to cover the civil war shortly after Maryknoll Nuns were murdered.

Aftermath of a Death Squad hit in San Salvador in 1981. Bob was across the street from his hotel, walked out after breakfast and found this scene. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin)

Davy Croakette, the frog, was the winner in his heat at the Calaveras County jumping frog contest. The guys put their frogs down and then launched themselves to scare the frog into jumping. Bob’s frog image won a 1982 National Headliners Award. “I had a fun free trip to Atlantic City,” Chamberlin says. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin)

SUMMER 1983 – Dial Torgerson and a freelance photographer Richard Cross were killed on the border between Honduras and Nicaragua.

SUMMER 1983 – Worked on story about Latinos in Los Angeles which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Community Service in 1984.

SUMMER 1984 – Covered the Olympic Games in Los Angeles as an editor and photographer.

MARCH 1985 – Photographed story about a man in Missouri who was released after serving 5 years for murder that he didn’t commit.  Another inmate confessed to the crime.

SUMMER 1985 – Studied Spanish in Madrid and traveled around the Iberian Peninsula.

FALL 1985 – Photographed story about brutality in Haiti and was the first media person to photograph Baby Doc Duvalier in 5 years.  He fled the impoverished nation three months later.

JANUARY 1986 – 1994 Became photo assignment editor and then Senior Photo editor, running day to day operations at the Times at a time when there were bureaus from San Diego to Ventura County.  Managed about 100 people.

JUNE 1987 – Traveled to China with my parents and met someone I knew walking on the Great Wall of China.  Los Angeles Times reporter Ed Chen was walking up the wall as I was walking down.  Neither of us knew the other was in China.

APRIL 1988 – Met Diane Lynch, my future wife, while studying Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala.

FEBRUARY 1990 – My father died in February.

JUNE 1990 – After traveling in Morocco, studied Spanish in Granada, Spain during a trip to rest after dad’s death.

NOVEMBER 1990 – Proposed to my girlfriend Diane Lynch during trek through the Annapurna region Nepal.  Turned 40 during the trip.

APRIL 1992 – Organized coverage of the Rodney King beating trial verdict and stayed overnight at the downtown office of the Times as it was attacked, shot at and set afire on the first night of the riots. Continued to work on coverage throughout the following week and the aftermath. Los Angeles Times was awarded Pulitzer Prize for coverage.

AUGUST 1992 – Ran the Los Angeles Times photo coverage of the Republican National Convention in Dallas Texas.

continued in next post.



About Katherine Crosier

I am an organist in Honolulu—a rare breed of folks who play the King of Instruments! Through stories, photos, and videos, this blog is a diary of my musical journey ... and my family just groans!

One response »

  1. Chris (John) Sengers says:

    Great story.
    Enjoyed it immensly
    Brought back a flood of memories starting with that time period.
    Oh, if we could only relive our past.
    I’m not sure I would change too much, but there are certain days that I would love to experience again.
    None of them have anything to do with headlines or world events.

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