George Rodger

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George Rodger
Born (1908-03-19)19 March 1908
Hale, Cheshire, England
Died 24 July 1995(1995-07-24) (aged 87)
Ashford, Kent, England
Nationality United Kingdom
Other names George William A Rodger
Occupation Photographer
Children Peter Rodger, Jonny Rodger
Relatives Elliot Rodger (grandson, deceased)

George Rodger (19 March 1908 – 24 July 1995) was a British photojournalist noted for his work in Africa and for photographing the mass deaths at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of the Second World War.[1]

Since 2014, he has posthumously become known as the grandfather of spree killer Elliot Rodger, who grew up in the United States. The grandson killed six students attending University of California Santa Barbara and wounded other persons before committing suicide.


One of Rodger's photographs taken after the liberation of Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

Born in Hale, Cheshire, of Scottish descent, Rodger went to school at St. Bees School in Cumberland. He joined the British Merchant Navy and sailed around the world. While sailing, Rodger wrote accounts of his travels and taught himself photography to illustrate his travelogues. He was unable to get his travel writing published; after a short spell in the United States, where he failed to find work during the Depression, Rodger returned to Britain in 1936. In London he found work as a photographer for the BBC's The Listener magazine. In 1938 he had a brief stint working for the Black Star Agency.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Rodger had a strong urge to chronicle the war. His photographs of the Blitz gained him a job as a war correspondent for Life magazine, based in the United States. Rodger covered the war in West Africa extensively and, towards the end of the war, followed the Allies' liberation of France, Belgium and Holland. He also covered the retreat of the British forces in Burma. He was probably the only British war reporter/photographer allowed to write a story on the Burma Road by travelling on it into China, with special permission from the Chinese military.[citation needed]

Rodger was one of many photographers to enter the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in 1945, the first being members of the British Army Film and Photographic Unit. His photographs of the survivors and piles of corpses were published in Life and Time magazines and were highly influential in showing the reality of the death camps. Rodger later recalled how, after spending several hours at the camp, he was appalled to realise that he had spent most of the time looking for graphically pleasing compositions of the piles of bodies lying among the trees and buildings.

This traumatic experience led Rodger to conclude that he could not work as a war correspondent again. Leaving Life, he traveled throughout Africa and the Middle East, continuing to document these areas' wildlife and peoples.

In 1947, Rodger became a founding member of Magnum Photos. Over the next thirty years, he worked as a freelance photographer, taking on many expeditions and assignments to photograph the people, landscape and nature of African nations. Much of Rodger's photojournalism in Africa was published in National Geographic as well as other magazines and newspapers.

A retrospective exhibition of Rodger's work was held at Imperial War Museum North in 2008.[2]

Marriage and family[edit]

He married and had a son, Peter, who became a filmmaker in Britain. He is the grandfather of Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the spree 2014 Isla Vista killings in California, United States. The grandson committed suicide the day of the killings, having also injured 14 persons.


  • Red Moon Rising. Cresset Press, 1943.
  • Desert Journey. Cresset, 1944.
  • Village des Noubas. 1955.
  • Le Sahara. 1957.
  • George Rodger: Humanity and Inhumanity. 1994.


  1. ^ Celinscak, Mark (2015). Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Concentration Camp. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442615700. 
  2. ^ Akbar, Arifa (4 January 2008). "The golden age of photojournalism is recalled in George Rodger exhibition". The Independent. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 

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