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Leopoldo Víctor Vargas. | by Homage to Leopoldo Víctor Vargas
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Leopoldo Víctor Vargas.



Non-commissioned officer (NCO) of the Chilean Air Force, Aerial Photographer, Photojournalist, Presidential Photographer and 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.


Born on July 9 1933 in Putaendo, San Felipe, Chile. He was the love child and the only son of Susana Vargas Berrios. He lived all of his childhood with his mother in Putaendo, V Region. At an early age he goes to live with his aunt Digna Vargas in Viña del Mar, V Region, where he will spend much of his adolescence and youth, studying and working. Then, with the help of his uncle Eufemio Vargas, resident in Santiago Chile, he applied and joined the Escuela de Especialidades of the Chilean Air Force. At El Bosque Air Force Base he attended the then newly created career of Fotografía Aérea (Aerial Photography).


He married Ms. Erika Caroca Atenas, on May 5, 1956, in Santiago de Chile, and had four children, Leopoldo, Marcos, Alex and Erika Maria.


Since 1964 to 1973, he was commissioned to serve as a photographer for the Presidency of the Republic of Chile at La Moneda Palace. There, NCO Vargas served President Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez, President Eduardo Frei Montalva, and President Salvador Allende Gossens. While at the same time, in the company of his colleagues, at La Moneda Palace, works as a freelance photojournalist.


As presidential photographer, Leopoldo Víctor Vargas, was the photographer that captured the most important and famous photos of President Salvador Allende - his official portrait in 1970 and the last pictures of the President alive, wearing a helmet and rifle over his shoulder, at Palacio de La Moneda, the day of the Coup, on September 11, 1973.


In 1974, he was awarded the World Press Photo of the Year 1973, for one of the last pictures of President Allende alive. This picture has become a "universal icon of photography", and is considered one of the "100 most influential images of all time".


Right after the Coup, between 1973 and 1974, he served the Military Junta, mainly Aviation General Gustavo Leigh Guzman, at the Diego Portales Building. There, he captured the first Official Portrait of each one of the four members of the recently formed Military Junta.


Later, in 1974, back at his original unit, the Photogrammetric Aerial Service (SAF), located in the former Los Cerrillos Airport, NCO Vargas returns to work as an Aerial Photographer. In 1979, he was sent forth to study Infrared Photography and Remote Sensors at South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, South Dakota, USA. In this unit, SAF, he will end his career in the Air Force. Years later after having retired from military service, he will go back to work in the sales dept. of the SAF as a civilian employee, and from there to his final retirement.


He 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.


Leopoldo Victor Vargas is survived by his wife, with whom he would have celebrated their 55th anniversary in May 5 2011, and by four children and six grandchildren.


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Taken circa 1973