Bernie Boston

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Bernie Boston
Born(1933-05-18)May 18, 1933
Washington DC, United States
DiedJanuary 22, 2008(2008-01-22) (aged 74)
Notable credit(s)
Pulitzer Prize-finalist

Bernie Boston (May 18, 1933 – January 22, 2008) was an American photographer most noted for his iconic Flower Power image.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Boston was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in McLean, Virginia. During his time in high school he was a photographer for the newspaper and yearbook. He graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1955 where he was a member of Gamma Phi local fraternity. After it became a chapter of Sigma Pi fraternity he was inducted into the national organization.[2][3] After his time at RIT, Boston studied at the School of Aviation Medicine in the U.S. Air Force. He served in the Army for two years while in Germany practicing radiology "in a neurosurgical unit."[which?]

In 1958, he left the Army and returned to Washington, working in custom photofinishing.[4] He started his news photography career in Dayton, Ohio with the Dayton Daily News. He moved back to Washington to work at The Washington Star and was director of photography when the newspaper folded in 1981. He then was hired by the Los Angeles Times to establish a photo operation in the nation's capital.

Boston covered every president from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton. In 1967 he was commissioned to shoot a portrait of former Black Panther H. Rap Brown. Noticing the trend of a call for civil rights in the late 1960s, Boston took more images of the Civil Rights Movement, including a portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his Poor People's Campaign, and other notable events. On October 22, 1967 he photographed his most famous picture, "Flower Power", which showed a Vietnam War protester inserting flowers into National Guardsmen's rifle barrels.[5] The protester has been claimed to be both Joel "Super-Joel" Tornabene[6] and George Edgerly Harris III.[5][7]

He was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for a 1987 photograph of Coretta Scott King unveiling a bust of her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in the U.S. Capitol.[1][8]

Boston taught photojournalism classes at Northern Virginia Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology.[4]

An archive of many of Boston's negatives as well as some prints and contact sheets is held at RIT. Established as a tribute to his memory and an inspiration for young photographers, it includes most of his work including the original negative for "Flower Power".[9]

Boston attributed his success to his knowledge of his equipment. In an age of film, he knew chemistry as well as the capabilities of his lenses. Boston also believed in dressing in a suit and tie. "I'm in the capital of the world and I don't believe you should walk into an office in jeans and a sweat-shirt. I think you should blend in."[3]



  • Bernie Boston: American Photojournalist. Henrietta, New York: RIT Cary Graphic Arts, 2006. By Therese Mulligan. ISBN 978-1933360195.


Boston died at his home in Basye, Virginia, on January 22, 2008, of amyloidosis.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Adam Bernstein (January 24, 2008). "Bernie Boston, 74; Took Iconic 1967 Photograph". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
  2. ^ McHenry, John A. (Summer 1960). "Rochester Institute Local Granted Beta Phi Charter" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 47, no. 2. pp. 76–78.
  3. ^ a b "Alumni Features - Bernie Boston" (PDF). The Emerald of Sigma Pi. Vol. 76, no. 2. Summer 1989. pp. 13–14.
  4. ^ a b "Bernard "Bernie" Boston, 74, Retired Los Angeles Times Photojournalist, Was An Icon". National Press Photographers Association, 22 January 2008. Accessed 30 September 2017
  5. ^ a b "Flowers, Guns and an Iconic Snapshot" Washington Post, March 18, 2007; Page D04
  6. ^ Krassner, Paul (January 30, 2008). "Tom Waits Meets Super-Joel". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-24.
  7. ^ Silva, Hoaracio (August 17, 2003). "Karma Chameleon". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b 1987 Pulitzer Prizes. Pulitzer Prize. Accessed 30 September 2017
  9. ^ Mulligan, Therese. "A tribute to photojournalist and alumnus Bernie Boston". RIT. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  10. ^ Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award Archived 2010-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, National Press Photographers Association,, retrieved 30 April 2009

External links[edit]