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John Malmin, 89; Former Times Photojournalist

May 20, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

John Malmin, a Los Angeles Times photographer whose exceptional images over a four-decade career offered a compelling record of a city in transition, has died. He was 89.

In failing health for some time with Alzheimer's disease, Malmin died Sunday at Alderwood Convalescent Home in San Gabriel.

Malmin joined The Times in 1942, and photographed many of the major news stories in Southern California.

Among his most striking images was a night photograph of National Guard troops who had just secured an area of Watts known as "Charcoal Alley," on 103rd Street looking east from Compton Avenue, during the riots in 1965. The image was later used on the cover of a book, "Burn Baby Burn: The Los Angeles Race Riot, August 1965," by Jerry Cohen and William S. Murphy.

A delightful gentleman in what was then sometimes a tough trade, Malmin was highly regarded by his peers.

"He was a strong, vibrant photographer until the day he retired at the age of 65," said Rick Meyer, a former Times photographer who knew Malmin well. "He was meticulous in his composition and in his black-and-white printing."

Malmin also was highly sought after by reporters for assignments because they knew he would invariably capture the essence of the moment and provide a perfect complement to stories.

A layout editor once commented to a colleague that if he knew Malmin would be shooting an assignment he would leave extra space to run the photograph because he knew that Malmin would always get a great picture.

Toward the end of his career, the award-winning Malmin collaborated with Times writer Art Seidenbaum on a large-format book on the city of Los Angeles. The book, "Los Angeles 200, A Bicentennial Celebration," was published by Abrams in 1980.

Born in Choteau, Mont., Malmin came to Southern California as a youngster with his mother after the death of his father. He studied at Los Angeles City College and Compton Junior College. He also studied photography at Art Center College of Design when it was in Los Angeles.

Malmin's later life was tinged with tragedy. Both of his sons died in accidents as relatively young men. Jim, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, was killed in an automobile accident, and Rick, a commercial photographer, was electrocuted while on assignment to shoot an Irvine yacht-building firm.

Among Malmin's survivors are two nieces, Alice Dapplehammer and Janice McCarthy. Services are pending.


Additional photos by John Malmin are at

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