Benedict J. Fernandez, a professed “photo-anthropologist” who captured the persona of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the fervor of the King era’s protest movements before mentoring a generation of professional photographers, died on Jan. 31 at his home in Oxford, N.Y. He was 84.
The cause was heart failure, his wife, Siiri Fernandez, said.
Mr. Fernandez became an award-winning photojournalist and documentarian by transforming adversities to his advantage. Raised in East Harlem, where he struggled with reading in school because of undiagnosed dyslexia, he was not yet a teenager when he received a simple Brownie camera as a gift and discovered a new form of expression.
That avocation became his profession in the early 1960s when Mr. Fernandez, a graduate of Haaren High School in Manhattan, was laid off from his job as a crane operator at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which was being phased out.