One of the nation’s premier photojournalists, Flip Schulke spent decades chronicling the triumphs and tragedies of American life. He was born in 1930 and began taking photographs as a high school student in New Ulm, Minnesota – where he acquired his distinctive nickname “Flip” from an early interest in gymnastics. After graduating from Macalester College in St. Paul, he settled in Florida, where he had spent part of his childhood.
After teaching for a short time at the University of Miami, Flip launched his career as a freelance photographer, working for Life magazine and many other major U.S. and European publications. He covered Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro, space launches, hurricanes, and leading entertainers and athletes of the time.
As early as 1956, Flip began to cover the emerging civil rights movement in the South. His long friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., forged during an all-night conversation in 1958, led Flip to photograph the movement from a deeply intimate point of view. At great risk, he captured many of the signature moments in the nation’s struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. His courageous role as a photographer has been recounted in The Race Beat, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of journalists covering the civil rights movement, and in several documentary films.
Flip’s personal collection of 11,000 photographs of Dr. King and his family, now housed at the University of Texas, is the largest in the world. He shot more than half-a-million images during his lifetime and won almost every award in photography. Several of his photographs have been cited as among the most striking and memorable of the 20th century.
In addition to his powerful work chronicling civil rights, Flip created indelible images of President John F. Kennedy, boxer Muhammad Ali and astronauts in the early years of the space program. He was also a pioneer in underwater photography, traveling around the world with Jacques Cousteau and other explorers to capture the beauty of life under the sea.
He remained an active photojournalist until his death on May 15, 2008, at age 77.