June 26, 2013 / 1:11 AM / 6 years ago

Ex-National Geographic photo chief Gilka dead at 96

(Reuters) - Robert Gilka, director of photography for National Geographic magazine for 22 years and a mentor to leading photojournalists, died on Tuesday at age 96, the National Press Photographers Association said.

He died in hospice care in Arlington, Virginia, following his third case of pneumonia this year, the NPPA said, citing photojournalist Bruce Dale.

“There is laughter and there are tears because Bob touched so many lives in remarkable ways,” Chris Johns, National Geographic’s editor in chief, told News Photographer magazine. “He encouraged us, set standards of excellence and instilled in us the desire to become better photographers and editors.”

Many photographers considered him a legend for how he ran the photo operation at magazine renowned for its spectacular images.

In 2006, the Alexia Foundation, which promotes photojournalism, honored him with a lifetime achievement award.

Gilka was head of the Milwaukee Journal’s picture desk starting in 1952 and joined the staff of National Geographic in 1958 as a picture editor, the NPPA said. He was named photography director in 1963 and retired from National Geographic in 1985.

After leaving the magazine, he was an adjunct professor of photojournalism at Syracuse University until 1992, the NPPA said.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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