George Rodger was an English photojournalist who was born in Hale, Cheshire, in 1908. He attended St. Bees College with the intention of becoming a writer, but after graduating, he decided that he wanted to see the world. While serving in the British Merchant Navy, he taught himself photography in order to document his travels. Although none of his work was published, it helped to develop a passion for photography that would help to define most of his later life.
He moved to America during the height of the Great Depression after leaving the British Navy. Not suprisingly, he was unable to find work and soon returned to England where he started working as a photographer for the BBC magazine The Listener. His pictures of the London Blitz, the sustained bombing of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany between September 7 1940 and May 16 1941, earned him a position as a war correspondant for Life magazine.
He documented Allied campaigns in West Africa, North Africa, Sicily and Salerno, Italy, winning eighteen campaign medals for his courage. He was the first war correspondant to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April of 1945. He photographed the camp for Time and Life magazines, and was present during the German surrender at Luneburg in May.
His photographs of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen were included among the first intelligence reports received by the Allied command documenting the atrocities commited by the Nazi party. His photographs of the camps that were published by Time and Life magazines played a critical role in spreading public knowledge and were highly influential in showing the reality of the death camps. Scarred by the traumatic experiences he encountered during the war, he decided that he no longer wished to photograph violence of any kind.
After quiting his job at Time and Life magazines, he began working as a freelance photographer. In 1947, he became one of the founding members of Magnum Photos. He spent the next thirty years traveling though Africa, photographing various native tribes. Some of his most famous work was done during this point in his career, and much of it was published in magazines such as National Geographic.