Robert Mendelsohn, a longtime freelance photographer for The Philadelphia Tribune who was renowned for photographing Black society life, has died. He was 61.
Many in the Philadelphia media community are mourning his untimely death. Though the exact time of his death has not been determined, his passing was confirmed by his sister, Judith Mendelsohn Marcus, of Delran, Burlington County on Saturday.
“It is with deepest sadness in my heart that I let you all know that my brother Robert Mendelsohn has passed away,” she said. “Thank you all so much for being his friends.”
A graduate of Olney High School and resident of the Germantown section of the city, Mendelsohn’s work as a photographer has been widely celebrated for covering Black social events in Philadelphia. From backyard cookouts to upper-echelon soirées, Mendelsohn covered these events for various publications including The Philadelphia Tribune, The New Observer and The Sunday Sun.
“He was one of the best at it,” said Abdul R. Sulayman, chief photographer at The Tribune. “He would go anywhere at anytime for us. He was a go-to guy to get things done. He will be missed in the photography community.
“Mendelsohn also possessed a stunning memory of people — the people that he knew and covered,” he said.
As news spread on Saturday morning about Mendelsohn’s death, words of mourning were expressed and shared.
“My first memories of coming to know him was 20 years ago, shooting alongside him on assignments,” said Sarah Glover, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. “He was so sweet and nice on assignments, and always let you get your shot and oftentimes before he would get his, unlike everyone else with a camera. His chronicling and photographic documentation of Black events over the last three decades or so in Philadelphia is unprecedented.”
Mendelsohn was also a longtime supporter of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) and believed in the organization’s mission of speaking on behalf of diversity in newsrooms in regard to coverage and fair hiring practices for minorities.
“He transcended the lens with an always friendly smile,” said PABJ President Manuel McDonnell Smith. “There was a comfort in seeing him at an event. You knew that he would snap all of the right people and all of the right moments.”
The memorial service was held July 31, at 11 a.m. at Goldstein’s Funeral Home, 6410 N. Broad St.