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  • Tim Greyhavens

David Logan's Legacy

This is the first in a three-part series about the influence of philanthropist David Logan.

David Logan, an important philanthropist who died in 2011 at the age of 93, loved the arts.

He loved everything from jazz to theater to photography, but it was photography that held a special place in his heart. He liked to read about it, talk about it, collect it, and, more than anything else, support photographers who were documenting our society and our collective way of life. Over his lifetime he supported and became friends with some of the most famous photojournalists of the 20th century, and he also diligently promoted photography as a discipline and art form. When it came to causes he liked, he set a high bar and never looked back.

His son Jon told me that his father was fearless when it came to connecting with photographers. Once he bought a new camera and couldn't figure out how to use it. Rather than go back to the camera store, he decided to call a particular photographer for help. It didn't matter the photographer in question was the famed W. Eugene Smith and that the two had never met – Logan got Smith's phone number and called him without the slightest hesitation. Naturally, Smith was incredulous that this man he didn't know called him out of nowhere to ask for help with his camera, but within a short time the two became good friends. Later when Smith was given a retrospective exhibition of nearly 600 of his photographs in New York City, David Logan wrote him and asked "How much would it cost me to buy your entire show? I want your show." He knew he probably wouldn't get everything he wanted, but that didn't stop him from asking.

David Logan was a self-made man of wealth, in part because he had a relentless desire for knowledge. He was known to read articles and reports on the arts all day long and then start and finish a 500-page novel before he went to bed. Trained as a lawyer, he combined his quest for knowledge with his skills of deduction to become a highly successful investor. After he became wealthy he continued to use his legal skills to help photographers he knew, often donating his services to help with contract or copyright issues.

In the 1980s he felt there was a gap in the state of scholarship about photography, so he created the Logan Grants project at the Photographic Resource Center (PRC) in Boston. During a ten-year period, the project funded 45 new and seasoned scholars to write critical and historical perspectives on photography and photographers. Some of the best essays from that project were published in PRC's journal and later in a book called Multiple Views.

Over the past 40 years David Logan made an impact on photography that few recent philanthropists can match. His wife, Reva, who passed away in 2013, shared his love of photography and the arts. Together they decided that David's alma mater, the University of Chicago, was lacking a major arts center, and in 2007 they donated $35 million to build the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Today the Logan Center is a world-class venue for concerts, performances, exhibitions, programs and other educational events.

His lasting contribution to photography may best be seen in his gifts to the University of California, Berkeley. Through individual donations and through funding from The Reva and David Logan Foundation, David Logan endowed two professorships, created a gallery for documentary photography and donated his substantial collection of photography books to the Bancroft Library. Together these gifts constitute a significant legacy for both the preservation of photographic history and the advancement of photographic education.

I found his story to be very inspiring, and I wanted to know more about what made him who he was. Recently I visited the Berkeley campus to help me understand more about David Logan and his legacy.

Tim Greyhavens

September, 2015

Go to Part 2: Ken Light and the State of Documentary Photography



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