Congressional Record
112th Congress (2011-2012)

Speech of Hon. Peter A. Defazio of Oregon
in The House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to remember the life and legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Brian Lanker. Ten days after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Brian passed away with his family at his side.

Brian was a remarkable photographer and an even better friend. In 1970, Brian shot a groundbreaking feature on the Lamaze technique for natural child birth, which at the time was unusual. Brian followed expectant mother Lynda Coburn through the birth of her second child. The feature culminated with a powerful photo of the ecstatic mother with her newborn daughter Jacki just after birth. This iconic photo earned Brian the 1973 Pulitzer Prize.

But Brian won an even greater prize. He found Lynda, his soul mate. Brian and Lynda were married in 1974 and together they built a loving family with their children Julie, Jacki, and Dustin.

In 1974, Brian and his family moved to Eugene, Oregon to take a position with the Register Guard. Brian’s passion for the craft was unmatched and his incredible work at the Register-Guard earned him a Newspaper Photographer of the Year award.

Brian left the Register-Guard to work as a freelance photographer. His breathtaking photographs have been featured in national publications like National Geographic, Life Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

He collaborated with poet Maya Angelou on two books: “I Dream a World,” his portraits of black women of achievement; and “Shall We Dance,” a photographic documentary of dance in America. The books were Brian’s proudest achievements. The book “I Dream a World” set attendance records at Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now in its 14th printing, the book shared with readers the stories of these incredible women who forever changed the course of history. Brian attributed the book’s success not to his work, but rather to the women.
But Brian had an uncanny ability to capture an image that revealed these stories. And throughout his career, his work moved people.

Two of Brian’s children, who had separately planned weddings for later in the year, chose to get married at Brian’s bedside so he could share in their celebration. He passed away not long after. He is survived by Lynda Lanker and their children Julie, Jacki, and Dustin.

Carl Davaz, who is the deputy managing editor at the Register-Guard, reflected on his final visit with Brian in a New York Times remembrance piece. At that visit Brian simply told Carl, “There’s just so much left to do.”

I agree. Brian — there was just so much left for you to do. You will forever be missed. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.

  1. I miss Brian’s work. I miss the man. As a fan I speak from a distance. I did meet Brian in 1968 at a YMCA in Phoenix, Az. Hs shot some photo’s of me performing an Olympic Cross on the Still Rings during my gymnastic’s work out at the “Y”. I’m looking at the framed newspaper photo now. When my father went to him to ask for the proofs, Brian gracefully gave my Dad four 5×7 glossy B & W”s. In May of that year I had won 1st in State on The Still Rings and repeated again in 1969. But that photo Brian picked out of me to put in the “Teen Gazette” of the Arizona Republic on Nov. 9th 1968 started something special for me not only as an 18 yr. old gymnast but a fellow photographer using my “Brownie”, which I still have, shooting photo’s since the mid fifties.
    I am still looking for a compilation of Brian’s photo work in book form. If somone might direct me I would sure appreciate that. Thank You and Thank You…Brian Lanker.
    Always, Eric Pennick