The National Portrait Gallery of The Smithsonian Institute called Michael Brennan’s 1977 photograph of Muhammad Ali “an extraordinary historically-significant photograph” and said “we are thrilled to add it to the Permanent Collection.” HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley went even further saying that “Brennan had captured the personal journey of one whose incomparable talents and audacity….altered the path of a society which had never before seen a man exactly like him.” And Ali isn’t the only world-changing figure who reveals themselves in Brennan’s photographs. Take a look at Mother Teresa. Brennan was one of the first Westerners to photograph and spend time with “The Saint” in Calcutta in 1970. And standing next to “The Saint” are Princess Diana, John Lennon, Queen Elizabeth, Mick Jagger, Norman Mailer and P.G.Wodehouse. This incredibly varied line-up reflects Michael Brennan himself-son of an immigrant Irish cab driver whose first job as a 15-year old messenger for the Sunday tabloid “The People.” His duties included minding the columnist Brendan Behan and learning in his words “that well-respected trade of newspaper photography.” At age 24 he won the “British News Photographer of the Year Award” for his series that showed the fatal crash of Donald Campbell’s jet-engined speed boat as Campbell attempted to break the world water speed record. In 1970 he received an even more prestigious award, the “Photographer of the Year Award.” the highest honour for photojournalism in the UK, for his coverage of news events around the world. As a staff photographer for The London Daily Mail he covered the conflict in the North of Ireland, the war between India and Pakistan, the civil unrest in Uganda and the Falklands War in Argentina. In 1973 he moved to New York and continued to cover international news events while developing the acquaintance and friendship with subjects such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, John Lennon and Led Zeppelin which led to these iconic portraits. Now living in his wife Lilly’s home country of Costa Rica, Brennan is curating a collection of images that is a unique look at recent history through the eyes of a similarly unique individual.
Michael Brennan talks with CBS tv Los Angeles