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San Francisco photography legend Robert Altman dead at 77

Robert Altman, the legendary San Francisco photojournalist who focused his lens on the city’s counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, died on Sept. 24.

He died at the age of 77, one month before his birthday, due to complications from a longtime battle with esophageal cancer, his press agent Lee Houskeeper said in a press release. 

The photographer “is survived by his body of work,” the release said, a profound testament to his widespread influence and talent across genres.

Born in New York City, Altman trained under Ansel Adams before moving to San Francisco in 1968, where he quickly became a fixture in the city’s counterculture scene, befriending — and sometimes photographing — artists, musicians and hippies with ease.

The Rolling Stones Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman and Keith Richards perform on stage during the Day on the Green #4 concert on July 26, 1978 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.

Robert Altman/Getty Images

He would shoot for the city’s underground newspaper Good Times before going on to become Rolling Stone’s chief staff photographer, capturing some of history’s greatest talents, including Keith Richards and David Crosby. 

“They gave me the front page and the full back cover and an inside spread, I was up all night waiting for the paper to come out,” Altman said to rock journalist Ben Fong-Torres of his stint for Good Times, who wrote the introduction to “The Sixties: Photographs,” a book Altman published in 2007.

In a statement, Rolling Stone founder Jan Werner (and Altman’s former boss) said that Altman “was instrumental in portraying the look and feeling and vitality of the Sixties.”

Revelers attend the Holy Man Jam circa August, 1970 in Boulder, Colorado. It was know as the first rave.

Revelers attend the Holy Man Jam circa August, 1970 in Boulder, Colorado. It was know as the first rave.

Robert Altman/Getty Images

Frankie Ann, a director who is working on a documentary about Altman, called him “a wonderful and loveable mensch and friend,” in a statement. She said his “exquisitely candid shots capture the historic moments that have come to define the ’60s.” 

In his often highly raw and naturalistic work, Altman captured over 30,000 images, ranging from hippie protests to Rolling Stones recording sessions. He later turned his lens to fashion. 

Altman’s body of work now resides in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley as part of the Robert Altman Photograph Archive. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.