The Color Photography of Co Rentmeester

Editorial Feature

Google Arts & Culture

A look at the work of the award-winning photojournalist 

Born in Amsterdam in 1936, renowned photographer Co Rentmeester first made his name in the world of sports—but not behind the lens. Rentmeester began with a career in rowing; he won the bronze in the double scull at the 1959 European Rowing Championships with his rowing partner Peter Bakker, and he came fifth at the 1960 Summer Olympics. However, soon he would become more famous for documenting historic events than for participating in them: shortly after his stint at the olympics, Rentmeester moved to Los Angeles to begin studying photography.

After graduating from the Art Centre College of Design, Rentmeester started his career freelancing at one of the most sought-after gigs in photography: LIFE Magazine. His first assignment was covering the Watts riots, six days of looting, guerilla fighting and arson that broke out in 1965 in response to an incident of police racism. His dramatic photographs of the scenes earned him his first accolades as a photojournalist and he was asked to join the LIFE staff full time.

In 1965, Rentmeester travelled to Asia, where he spent the next few years mainly focussing on the Vietnam War, capturing life in the war-torn country and documenting the experiences of an American tank crew in the heat. It was here that he took an image of an M84 tank gunner looking through a gunsight, which won him World Press Photo of the Year in 1967. It was the first color photograph to win the award.

The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

Rentmeester was wounded by a Vietcong sniper near Saigon and returned to the US in 1972, where he continued working as a photojournalist and advertising photographer. The award-winning photographer has taken many other acclaimed photos through his career, including a series on his travels through Indonesia and the 1972 Olympic Games. We take a look at some of his best color photographs:

Co Rentmeester, 1969, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

Young male orangutan named Jippo striking a very human pose in the jungles of North Borneo

Indonesia South East Asia Special Issue, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

Indonesia South East Asia Special Issue, by Co Rentmeester (From LIFE Photo Collection)

Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Sumatra - Island Of Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, 1971, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Sumatra, Co Rentmeester, 1971-08, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, 1966-05, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, 1966-05, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, 1966-05, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

Indonesia, by Co Rentmeester (From LIFE Photo Collection)

Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Indonesia, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Indonesia South East Asia Special Issue, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Hong Kong Floods, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, by Co Rentmeester (From LIFE Photo Collection)

The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
The Cavalry Moves Out In Vietnam, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Vietnam Elections, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Co Rentmeester, 1969, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

Group of Japanese macaques (aka snow monkey) sitting in hot spring in Shiga Mountains

(Donald Sutherland), Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Elk, Co Rentmeester, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Summer Olympics 1972, Co Rentmeester, 1972-09, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Olympics, Co Rentmeester, 1972, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Co Rentmeester, 1972, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection

US swimmer Mark Spitz in training for the 1972 Summer Olympic games

Polaroid, Co Rentmeester, 1972, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Polaroid, Co Rentmeester, 1972, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Credits: All media
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