(July 9, 1933- March 26, 2011)
Leo Vargas was born on July 9 1933 in Putaendo, San Felipe, Chile. He was the love child and the only son of Susana Vargas Berrios.
He married Ms. Erika Caroca Atenas, on May 5, 1956, in Santiago de Chile.
Leopoldo Victor Vargas died after a long struggle with diabetes and all its complications in Santiago’s Hospital de la Fuerza Aérea de Chile on the afternoon of Saturday March 26 2011. He is survived by his wife, and by four children and six grandchildren.
Mr. Vargas was a Non-commissioned officer (NCO) of the Chilean Air Force, Aerial Photographer, Photojournalist, Presidential Photographer (1964-1973) and is the author of the award-winning picture of the World Press Photo of the Year 1973, and of the Official Portrait of Chilean President Salvador Allende Gossens and the first Official Portrait of each of the members of the Military Junta right after the Coup in 1973- Army General Augusto Pinochet, Aviation General Gustavo Leigh, Admiral José Merino, and Carabineros’ General César Mendoza Durán.
Last Monday 26th, January 2015, was the 41st anniversary of the publication, in the American newspaper The New York Times, of the picture of the only Chilean photographer winner of the prestigious prize World Press Photo of the Year 1973, awarded by the World Press Photo Foundation in the Netherlands. It is the world’s most important prize in Photojournalism. The image shows one of the last photos of Chilean President Dr. Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens alive, wearing a helmet and rifle on his shoulder, inside the Chilean Palace of Government, La Moneda, the day of the Coup d’état, on September 11, 1973. It was taken that fateful morning at about 09:40 a.m. by Leopoldo Víctor Vargas– presidential photographer and non-commission officer (NCO) of the Chilean Air Force.  Since it’s publication in The New York Times this picture has become a truly world photo icon.
The World Press Photo of the Year 1973 depicts Chilean President, Dr. Salvador Allende, during his tour of inspection through La Moneda Palace of government, looking for the best positions for its defense, while the Coup is in progress. Allende is flanked by two members of his personal guard, known by the acronym GAP, which in Spanish stands for “Group of Personal Friends” of the President. On Allende’s far right is Héctor Daniel Urrutia Molina (a.k.a. Miguel) and to the far left side is, the tallest one, squinting, Luis Fernando Rodríguez Riquelme (a.k.a. Mauricio). Right behind the President is José Muñoz, Captain of the Carabineros Presidential Guard, and Allende’s friend Dr.Danilo Bartulín Fovich.
Eleven years ago, on the afternoon of Saturday 26th, 2011, Presidential Photographer and Chilean Air Force NCO (R) Leopoldo Víctor Vargas passed away in Santiago de Chile, at age 78.
As Presidential Photographer (between 1964-1973) at the Chilean seat of government, La Moneda Palace, he made the picture winner of the World Press Photo of the Year 1973. Earlier, he made the Presidential Official Portrait of late President Salvador Allende, at the very beginning of his presidency in 1970. And, at the Diego Portales building, he shot the first official portrait of each one of the four members of the Military Junta (1973)- Army Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Admiral José Toribio Merino, Aviation Gen. Gustavo Leigh, and Carabineros Gen. César Mendoza.
One of his pictures is considered one of the 100 most influential images of all time, and counted among the photos that changed the world. Also is acknowledged as a universal icon of photography.
But above of all of his life achievements, he was a God-fearing man, a dear husband, father, and grandfather. Today we commemorate his death.
His widow, and family members, with deep love and respect, look forward to seeing him again on the fast-approaching day of resurrection.
La Moneda Palace is being bombarded during the coup d’état at noon on September 11th 1973.
President Salvador Allende and his wife Ms. Hortensia Bussi.
La Moneda Palace, Santiago de Chile, September 11th, 1973.
Photo: Leopoldo Víctor Vargas.
Forty three years ago, on Friday 29th, June 1973, there was a putsch against the government of Chilean President Salvador Allende. This failed putsch is known as Tanquetazo or Tancazo.
Commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army
Chilean President Salvador Allende stayed in his home, at Tomás Moro Street, until around 11:30 am, leaving in that hour heading to La Moneda Palace the day of the failed putsch, on june 29th, 1973.
Notice here that late Chilean President Salvador Allende is wearing O’Higgins Pioche a simbol of his character as Generalissimo of the Chilean Armed Forces. Also he is wearing a 6 button double breasted suit, white shirt and tie. An attire completely different from the one he wore the fateful day of the Coup in September 11th, 1973.
Photo: (Possibly) Luis Poirot.