LIFE Magazine stamp on verso.
In a 1964 LIFE Magazine Editor's Note, George Hunt, opened his piece, " A LIFE photographer's job is a bit like climbing Mt. Everest. Why does anyone do it? The answer is "Because it's there."" He went on to describe Michael Rougier's numerous daring feats and accomplishments. "There is a legend in our offices that Rougier is the only man who ever walked into LIFE, unknown, asked for a staff photographer's job and got it the same day. Since then, his daring has gone far beyond that. He has been attacked by Communist rioters in Tokyo and shot at in Latin American revolutions. He was in Budapest, taking stunning pictures, when the Russians crushed the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Mike also had the odd habit of making "safe" assignments dangerous." Rougier's Antarctica assignment fell into that category. While he was photographing scientific accomplishments, insects, seals, and penguins, he slipped and fell 15 feet into a crevasse. "He was hauled out by rope; no harm done." Then when Rougier was with a geological survey party climbing the Shackleton Glacier on a warm day for Antarctica - maybe 10 degrees above zero – he took a step back. The snow under his foot gave way and he fell 1,800 feet spinning from his stomach to his back, careening into snow covered boulders which luckily slowed him down and prevented him from going over the cliff at the mountain's base. After a daring helicopter rescue, he was then flown to New Zealand having suffered two broken ribs, and four chipped vertebrae. Hunt closed his piece, " He'll be home in a week or so. The mountain he fell off was nameless until last week. Now it is called Mt. Rougier."
In addition to his fortitude, he was also known for his empathy and compassion for those less fortunate as exemplified by this photograph of Kang Koo Ri, who was introduced to LIFE readers as "The Boy Who Wouldn't Smile." While covering the Korean War, Rougier came across the Taegu orphanage and met Kang, who here eats a meal in the orphanage after US soldiers found him next to his dead mother. The compelling essay that ran in LIFE inspired readers to donate money, books, medicine, and clothing to the orphanage and Kang was later adopted by an American family.
Michael Rougier was born in England on June 16, 1925, attended Marlborough College in Wiltshire, and lived in England until 1940. He then attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver majoring in psychology. He served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 3 years where he was a Flight Sergeant and was awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. In October of 1946 he began working as a photographer for the Montreal Standard. There, an assignment to cover Canadian prize cattle being air shipped to Argentina presented him not only with the surprise of helping deliver a calf en route but landed him a major career course correction. In Buenos Aires he saw the then rarely photographed Evita Peron in the crowd, "forgot the cattle, and started taking pictures. He was spotted by the security police who confiscated his film and threw him out of the country. But he had switched rolls on them." He sent the pictures to the Standard and to LIFE. He joined LIFE's staff on October 14, 1947.
In the 60's while based in Miami he took up sculpting in addition to his photography, both pursuits winning him accolades and awards. He retired from LIFE's staff at the end of 1971, remaining on as a contract photographer until the weekly magazine folded at the end of 1972. He died in Canada on January 5, 2012. He also must have had a wonderful sense of humor. In a Time Inc., biographical file, he listed his "Hobbies" as "Photography" and "Classical Music" and "Other Activities" as "Loafing."
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Medium Silver print
Photo Date 1951 Print Date 1980s
Dimensions 13-1/2 x 10-1/2 in. (343 x 267 mm)
Photo Country Korea
Photographer Country Canada
Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd.