Great men are bound to do great things. And, the greatest ones of these, are humble and modest about their accomplishments. Chilean Photographer Leopoldo Víctor Vargas, was one of these men.
Ten years ago, on the afternoon of Saturday 26th, 2011, Presidential Photographer and Chilean Air Force NCO (R) Leopoldo Víctor Vargas past away in Santiago de Chile, at age 78.
As Presidential Photographer (1964-1973), at the Chilean seat of government La Moneda Palace, he is the real author of the World Press Photo of the Year 1973, the Presidential Official Portrait of late President Salvador Allende (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 among the “100 most influential images of all time“, the “photos that changed the world“, and is also considered “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 (3/26/2021).
His widow, and family members, with deep love and respect, look forward to see him again in the fast approaching day of resurrection.
(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.
La Moneda Palace, Santiago de Chile, September 11th, 1973.
Photo: Leopoldo Víctor Vargas.
#ADayLikeToday 42 years ago, the fourth picture of six captured by Chilean presidential photographer Leopoldo Víctor Vargas made it’s debut in the world press. Shot the morning of Tuesday September 11th 1973 at La Moneda Palace, seat of the Chilean Government, during the Coup d’état.
Uploaded on May 4th 2009 by Nederlands Instituut voo Beeld en Geluid.
For all Spanish speakers here’s a comprehensive bibliography on Leopoldo V. Vargas- his life and work.
“Leopoldo Víctor Vargas, el fotógrafo de las últimas horas de Allende en La Moneda”, por Hermes H. Benítez, en el diario digital piensaChile.com, el lunes 25 de Junio del 2012.
Since September 16th, 2015, the Chilean National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de Chile) is the custodian of the Official Portrait of Chilean President Salvador Allende (1970-1973), captured at La Moneda Palace of government, the same day that Allende took office, on November 3rd,1970. Photo by presidential photographer Leopoldo Víctor Vargas (1933-2011).
The photo, virtually disappeared since 1974, was donated to the Chilean National Library by Leopoldo Víctor Vargas’ widow, Erika Caroca Atenas, and their firstborn, Leopoldo P. Vargas (also a professional photographer), on behalf of Leopoldo Vargas and his family.
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.