2:26 PM / Monday September 28, 2020

3 Aug 2019

Remembering Robert with Love: Recollections of late legendary SUN photographer Robert Mendelsohn

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August 3, 2019 Category: Local Posted by:

We Remember ROBERT…with love


Always on the job, at most of Philly’s African American events, Robert Mendelsohn, the prolific photog, with his jolly demeanor and love of people — especially Black people — had become as much of a celebrity as the subjects he shot.

So many memories…I was impressed with Robert when he brought his photo albums to the office some years ago of selfies he did of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars; Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Charlton Heston, just to name a few — and this was when he was a young guy starting out.

Also his love of the ladies — and the ladies loved HIM too! His never ending love of good food.

Some would look incredulously, at the little man with a camera, effortlessly making his way through Philly’s movers and shakers, as if he were an extension of them, smoothly chronicling the day’s events throughout the City.

All of us at the SUN will miss Robert Mendelsohn terribly, and that in itself is an understatement. Another chunk of the SUN’s heart is gone.

Teresa Emerson, Philadelphia Sunday SUN managing editor

Teresa Emerson, Philadelphia Sunday SUN managing editor

PABJ is mourning the loss of renowned photojournalist Robert Mendelsohn. “Rob” and his camera were a fixture in and around Philadelphia’s African American community for decades and his images captured the celebrations, triumphs, and tragedies of Black life.

“He transcended the lens with an always friendly smile”, said PABJ president Manuel McDonnell Smith. “There was a comfort in seeing him at an event. You knew that he would snap all of the right people and all of the right moments.” His work appeared across city and regional media, most recently as a correspondent with The Philadelphia Sunday SUN.

Robert was a long-time friend and strong supporter of PABJ and our mission. We are grieving and will miss him deeply. Further updates regarding plans to honor Robert are being discussed. We hope to be able to share them soon. For now, please share your favorite memories and photos of him to collectively share and show his impact on us all.

Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists

To Judy Mendelsohn Marcus, and family and friends, my heartfelt condolences to your family. l’m praying for all during this most difficult time. There are no words to express what the loss of this gentle soul means to me and my family, as well as all of Philadelphia. Robert was extremely special to my daughter Davida. He was a friend, brother, uncle, and even a father figure to her. He attended all of our family gatherings, capturing beautiful memories. There are no titles that I can use to explain their friendship; it was something special between the two of them. She was always ready when he would call and tell her about an event that was going on that she needed to be at as someone of importance who spread health awareness throughout the city. It’s with a heavy heart, I say that he will missed. Their friendship will now continue with our Heavenly Father.

Submitted by Theresa Godett, the mother of the late Davida Corrine Godett and friend of Robert

I was very shocked that my friend Robert is not here anymore. I still can’t believe it! I met Robert 17 years ago working with the SUN. He was always positive and likable. He would do anything for you. He always gave me great compliments of my pictures. He met my wife, my kids and my mom. We always used to see him at the Ringling Brothers circus at Wells Fargo every year.

One memory I had of Robert — I was in the camera store in Center City and [when] Robert came in, all we did was talk about cameras, lenses, people and life. We were in the store for over 6 hours talking; we were almost thrown out of the store, but it was great talking with him.

He never had a car, but he was always at every event. People love him because he is down to earth — no fancy clothes, sneakers or ego. He was never mean and always helpful.  He is a Philly legend. I am so sorry he is not here. Rest in Peace.

Webster Riddick  

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Philadelphia photographer Robert Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn has shot concerts at the Dell for several years and we send our deepest condolences to Mendelsohn’s family and friends.

Dell Music Center

Rest in Peace to legendary Philadelphia photographer Robert Mendelsohn. You will truly be missed.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown

Friendship. Community. Alliances. Loyalty.

These are concepts that are analyzed, written about, examined, and — more often than not — mischaracterized or misjudged.

However, Robert Mendelsohn was a mensch for all seasons in this regard.

His work, his devotion to his friends (of which there were many), his dedication to Philadelphia’s African American community and the alliances he formed because of it, his loyalty and his eternal optimism made him a very rare individual indeed. 

In so many ways, his unwavering cross cultural dedication is a blueprint for what it will take to heal this broken and racially divided country and world.

He was a simple man, but he was a decent man, who once told me that the day he was honored by the community for his service to it was the happiest day of his life, especially sharing that moment with his family, and having the opportunity to wear a special suit purchased for the occasion. He said he didn’t know why anyone would honor him so, but was grateful. Because that is what humble, grounded people do.

There will never be another Robert, but the lessons of his brief life should inspire others in the years to come.

May his memory be a blessing.

Amy V. Simmons, Writer, Philadelphia Sunday SUN

Robert Mendelsohn – a quiet American hero. Black Philadelphia’s hero. A friend to me and a friend and mentor to my sister, Laura.

What I saw when I looked at Robert was a smiling, patient, polite, observant and strategic photographer. I saw how calmly and amazingly excellent he was, and what a gentleman of character! To me, he was not “that white guy” —  he was one of us!

Yes, he captured Black Philadelphia’s “social scene”. But to me, he captured even more…a major slice of our Black history. Our successes. Our strengths. Our leaders. Our futures.

He saw us at our best and captured our essence, that flash that God gave us.

Robert showed us all the difference between influence and power. His sterling character and the trust he earned, gave him influence. His impacts on us, gave him power. He made us all better. Rest well my friend, rest well!

Archie Elam

Occasionally, I do stories about food. Restaurant reviews, stuff like that.

Robert Mendelsohn shot many of them for me. In addition to his ubiquitous presence at just about every event in the Black community, he was also a serious foodie. Almost every time I saw him, we’d talk about food, events, and just about anything else.

There are more than a few events that won’t be the same without him. I know that my restaurant reviews won’t be as much fun.

Rest In Peace, Robert. You’ll be missed.

Denise Clay, Writer, Philadelphia Sunday SUN

Robert Mendelsohn was always the most polite, most pleasant, most thoughtful and professional person at every event.  We will miss him!!!

Bonnie Squires–Squires Consulting

I work in the catering industry and I used to see him at a lot of our events. I remember him waving at me to try the hors d’oeuvres being served or if it was a buffet style event, he would ask me, ‘what’s on the menu for the evening?’ As we encountered more at these events, he would greet me with a hug, kiss on the cheek and a warm smile, all this time I never knew his name. I’m quite sure he told me, but I’ll have to admit, I’ m terrible with names. It’s sad for me to have learned it under such sad circumstances. I will sure remember his name and will miss seeing him and greeting him at our events… S.I.P., my dear Friend.

Sharon Dempster 

I’ve known Robert since the late 1980s. We worked together when I was a reporter for the Philadelphia New Observer. Robert loved good food, and when we were on the beat, he would always tell you which events had the best food. As a publicist, I could always count on him to get good shots of my clients at events and get them in the newspaper for which he was shooting. I last saw him on the Chestnut Hill West train last month on my way to an event at the Kimmel Center. I asked if he was going and he said, no, he was going home because he was tired. Of course, he had a sister with him! He loved some Black women! Robert knew everyone and documented Black Philadelphia better than any photographer I know. His photographs are part of our legacy. Thank God for Robert! May he rest in everlasting peace.

Marilyn Kai Jewett

Progressive Images Marketing Communications

I’m so sad to hear of my friend’s passing. I was just looking at a photo he took of me and my husband Curtis Shipman Jr. I last saw him at Welcome America Hoagie Fest and Patti LaBelle’s street dedication. We always talked about being Olney High School graduates. He always greeted me with a smile, hug and a kiss. Robert was the one that made me want to increase my photography skills. He worked with my sister Leona Dixon for the Phila Sunday SUN. I love and miss you, Robert Mendelsohn. My deepest condolences and prayers are for his family and all those affected by his death. Rest In Peace, my friend.

Tamika Shipman

I first met Robert about 15 years ago at the Paul Robeson house; he and Frances Aulston were good friends. Robert would be seen at many events throughout Philadelphia; he always had that welcome smile. I last saw Robert at the Dell a couple weeks ago. He will truly be missed. 

Cynthia Johnson

Hi my name is Ernie Bristow, and one of my fondest memory with Robert was our conversation about how we both loved watching classical movies, him telling me about which actor/actress he photographed, [and] who were just rude and/or mean (LOL). And my fondest memory was when he found out I was original from Brooklyn. He would call me that every time he saw me, he would say ‘What’s up, Brooklyn?’ Ha! Rest Well, my friend!! (Peace)! 

Ernestine Bristow 

I knew Bob back in the early 80s when he was doing his “paparazzo” thing. I worked at Ritz Camera on Market Street, and Bob would come in to have his film developed. He was always pleasant and kind, and would share his celebrity pix with me. The thing was, the stars being photographed never looked annoyed. It was like they were happy to have their picture taken by Bob. I remember one of Elizabeth Taylor. Bob captured her leaving a Broadway theater after performing on stage. She was wearing no makeup but looked absolutely radiant. The last time I saw Bob, he was at a fundraiser for Howard Dean. I was very sad to hear of his passing. My deep condolences to his family and friends.

Georgette Forgione

We would have met at a PASCEP program, about twenty years ago. From that day forward, every time our paths crossed he would ask if I would be performing poetry. Who needs a selfie when Robert was on the scene? And if you were able share the same space with him, you knew you were in the right spot. Rest well, Robert, and thank you for the memories.

Debra Powell-Wright

Member, In The Company of Poets

Special people enter your life connecting instantly. Robert always felt like a friend when I was meeting him for the first time. He was always happy and making jokes. A kind heart sums him up.  Defiantly one of a kind…I will miss him…

Marnita E. Kidd 

He was a fixture at events in our community. It will difficult to attend these events without seeing his ever-present smile and camera.

My condolences to you and the entire Sunday Sun family.

Linda Wallace

I am so saddened to hear about Robert. I can’t imagine a Philadelphia event without him. He was also so helpful, friendly and pleasant and never in the way of anyone else looking for a particular shot showing his wonderful patience. I will miss him.

Harriet Lessy

My dear buddy, Robert Mendelsohn, a brother from another mother. Robert and I go back to the early nineties as friends. He was interested in you other than just taking your picture. We would hang out at some events and many times find ourselves at corporate events where there was space. I will miss our conversations and lovingly suggesting to my friend to ‘comb your hair, your future wife might be around the corner.’ To Judy, Sunday SUN and Scoop, my condolences to you. Rest in Peace, Robert.  

Valerie Susan McLoyd.  

On Saturday July 27, 2019, I was in Birmingham, Alabama getting ready to be on a panel discussion entitled, ‘The Secrets to Her Success’ during their Freedom Festival, when I heard of this news via social media. As I paused in shock, I began to reflect on Robert Mendelsohn great works and the effect he’s had on my life. In many aspects Rob was like a guiding light in navigating the political scene. I would see him capture different people in their element and their photo would end up in either of the community papers, Philadelphia Sunday SUN, The Public Record or The Philadelphia Tribune. Those captured moments geared conversations in various circles of influence for the good of the community. I’ll never forget the message I received from Rob in 2015 during my time in the CF administration, “your loyalty to your cause will be your strength in this field. I’ll be watching you, little lady, continue to do great things and I’ll be there to capture those moments”. As sad as I am to see him go, I know his legacy and his photojournalism will live on within the lives of others. 

Sorrowfully submitted,

Teresa M. Lundy

I was shocked to hear about Robert Mendelsohn’s passing. He did the pictures for my 50th wedding anniversary celebration, just last year. Robert Mendelsohn was an Icon in Philadelphia and his willingness to cover and photograph events was legendary. I’ve known Robert for about 30 years or more, and I always knew I could call on him for my family’s special events. He also did the wedding pictures for my son’s first wedding. He was “one” likeable guy , “one” who you knew would show up if he committed and “one” who you knew would partake of any food connected with the event. I will miss him. My prayers  and God’s Blessings go out to his family.

Harriet Garrett, Community Receptionist

Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church  Office

I am devastated by the passing of Robert Mendelsohn. Not only was he one of Philadelphia’s best photographers, he was a friend. He was kind, modest and so smart! Having a conversation with him was like getting a history lesson. He knew so much about Black history —  it was unreal! He was one of my biggest cheerleaders and was always there to take pictures of me during some of my biggest moments. I loved him dearly. He will be sorely missed by so many. This is a big loss for the city of Philadelphia. Plans are being made to honor him the way he truly deserves. Rest well, friend.

Shani Newton

I never met Robert in person, but we did have a recent encounter that impacted my life indefinitely. I’ve been writing for The Sun since February of 2019, but always wondered whether or not people read my work… About two months ago, Robert friended me on Facebook and sent a message to inform me that he enjoyed my writing and had identified my writing style as “personal”. Prior to our conversation, I’d thought of my writing as too simple, but for some reason, Robert being able to connect with my words and understand the tone made me realize that my writing has purpose. I think about it whenever I’m in a rut.

During that same conversation, I mentioned to him that I wanted to be a “famous talk show host” some day, to which he responded, “Be a talk host who is great. The fame will follow” … Advice that I wish cherish.

Danae Reid

As the twelve-year-old film critic and entertainment writer for the Philadelphia SUN, I met Robert Mendelsohn. I had just discovered my passion for filmmaking. Robert encouraged me from that moment until his final breath. Everywhere all the time, I often wondered if he had a twin or was really an octopus. Somehow he managed to always find time to attend me and my family’s events, often as both a participant and photojournalist. 

We had many conversations about the industry, world, and much more. But he was always most interested in how I was doing personally and what if anything he could do to help me reach my aspirations. If he heard of something through the grapevine that might prove useful to me, he’d always let me know. 

150 words is not nearly enough room to share just what he meant to me. But I will miss my friend and con·frère. 

Sorrowfully submitted, 

Robert X. Golphin

Goodbyes are not forever,

Are not the end;

It simply means

I’ll miss you until we

Meet again.

Rest in peace, my kind good hearted Robert.

Olivia Manning & Family

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