During his 50-year career as a photographer and photojournalist, Leigh Wiener photographed every U.S. president from Truman to Reagan, Hollywood legends from Marilyn to Marlon, musicians from Miles to Sinatra, poets, scientists, playwrights and industry titans. Born in 1929, Wiener grew up in New York City, where his father worked as a newspaper man. Arthur “Wegee” Felig, a family friend who worked as a freelance news photographer, first taught Wiener to look at pictures. By 15, he had sold a photo to Collier’s.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1946, working in the library at the Los Angeles Times. His first big break as a photographer came in 1949, when he photographed the empty swing of Kathy Fiscus. The three-year-old captured the world’s attention when she fell down an empty well, but by the time rescuers found her, she had died. Wiener’s photo ran on the front page of more than 100 papers around the country. Read more about the Empty Swing.
Wiener went on to become a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times and then shot freelance for Life, Time, Fortune – Sports Illustrated and many more. He created and co-hosted the Emmy Award-winning half-hour television show “Talk about Pictures” on KNBC, Channel 4, in Los Angeles and received numerous awards for his football motion picture documentary “A Slice of Sunday.”
Leigh Wiener’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery and several national museums. He also published several books that include his photos. He passed away in 1993, leaving behind a rich archive of images that uniquely captures the second half of the 20th century.