Obituaries

Helen Brush Jenkins, early LA news photographer was 94

helenbrushjenkins-rense.jpgHelen Brush Jenkins shot photos for the original Los Angeles Daily News, the long-defunct newspaper whose memory the LA journalist Rip Rense has carefully kept alive. He advises that Jenkins died today in Chicago at age 94. Back in the day, Jenkins received notoriety for photographing the delivery of her own children. Like many LA photogs in the post-World War II era, she also captured the flash of an atomic bomb test in the Nevada desert. From an interview she did with Rense:

RENSE: When reminiscing about old L.A. newspapers, everyone seems to mention the Examiner and the Herald-Express, or the Times, but seldom the Daily News---


JENKINS: Well, the Examiner was a lying paper, and the Herald-Express was worse than the Examiner. They lied, and did such terrible things. Helen Gahagan Douglas, when she was running for office, they sandwiched her into a picture with a big rackateer, like she was shaking hands with him! The Daily News was an independent, and no-you-can't-bribe-me paper. There was only once that I recall that they engaged in, not nepotism---oh, I know, it was an advertiser. They didn't kill the story, but they went soft on it.

RENSE: Seems to happen at every paper, at one time or another.

JENKINS: Well, not at the Daily News. We didn't do that! That made it a really unusual paper. They weren't afraid to print things that were untouchable. They were a good, honest, forthright paper. The Times was out to get 'em, and they got 'em. They created the Mirror to compete with them. To undermine the Daily News by taking its customers.

[skip]

RENSE: So you were the only woman photog around in those days?

JENKINS: I started out being the only woman photographer in the living world! They were hard up. They didn't have anyone they could call on. (During WWII, there was a shortage of photographers at the local papers, as so many had gone to war.) So I went down and applied for the job! Lee Payne was the managing editor. Charlie Judson was on the city desk. Out of desperation, he said, "we'll try you out for a week." (laughs.) Want to know what my first assignment was? Sixteen hundred head of cattle had gotten loose in East L.A. near the stockyard, and they sent Sparky Saldana and myself out to photograph! I wound up riding around on the running board of my car, with Sparky driving, having fights with the cowboys who were mad at me because they figured I was going to stampede the herd. I got one picture of a cow on somebody's front porch, and another one chased me around a tree. Oh, God---what fun! And that was my beginning.

RENSE: Were you really the only woman photog in L.A. at that time?

JENKINS: Oh, yeah, for a number of years. Not only L.A., but in the U.S. and I believe also in Europe.

Here's a 17-minute trailer for a film that may be done on her life. Vimeo


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