Obituary: Photographer Roger Ressmeyer, former PACA president

August 23, 2018

By Holly Stuart Hughes

© Roger Ressmeyer

Roger Ressmeyer exhibited a selection of his images of astronomy and space exploration in 2011 at ArtsWest Gallery in Seattle.

Photographer and multimedia producer Roger Ressmeyer, who turned his fascination with astronomy and scientific exploration into a successful stock agency, died in Seattle this week, according to his wife, Dianna, who announced the news on social media on August 22. A cancer survivor, Ressmeyer had recently suffered a stroke, Dianna Ressmeyer said.

A graduate of Yale College, where he studied psychology, Ressmeyer had  dreamed of joining NASA, but was told that because of his diabetes, he couldn’t become an astronaut.  An photo enthusiast since childhood, he became a photojournalist, photographing celebrities, musicians, scientists and other subjects for clients including The New York Times, Smithsonian, Stern, Geo and National Geographic. His photos appeared on several book jackets and album covers. He estimated that while photographing volcanoes and earthquakes, he had dodged death 15 times.

In 1992, he created the Starlight Photo Agency to represent his scientific photography. He sold his archive in 1995 to Bill Gates, who was beginning the stock agency Corbis. Ressmeyer joined the company and served as a photo editor for three years until he moved to Getty Images, where he became VP of Strategy and Corporate Development in 1999.

In 2005, he was elected president of the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) trade association.

While working as a photographer and stock agency manager, he continued running a production company, using film, video and multimedia to explore science topics that intrigued him.

In 2011, ArtsWest gallery in Seattle hosted “The Beginning of Totality,” a retrospective of his images of astronomy, space exploration and eclipses. “In my career I’ve been able to witness some of the most astounding events that humankind can ever experience,” Ressmeyer said prior to the exhibition opening. “I’m lucky that as a young boy I became fascinated with outer space. All I wanted to do was to photograph the things that I got to photograph later for National Geographic and other publications.”

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