Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Howard & Bente Bennett

One of my greatest privileges as a journalist was to research and write the story of Howard Bennett and his campaign in 1985 to force Los Angeles to clean up Santa Monica Bay. The result was the book, Dirty Water: One Man's Fight to Clean Up One of the World's Most Polluted Bays (University of California Press, 2010).

For the book's cover, I photographed Howard neck-deep in the bay in 2009. It's still one of my favorite portraits. I chose the surf location because for years Howard used to swim in the ocean, nearly every morning, for a half mile or more before he went to work as a teacher at Culver City High School. Logically, that's how he got involved in the fight to force the city to stop dumping millions of gallons of partially treated sewage in the bay everyday.

My wife and I recently visited Howard and his wife, Bente, at their Playa del Rey home. Howard still swims but now in a special pool they build in their backyard which abuts the Playa del Rey beach. Howard is still feisty at 85, but a little slower in other ways. While we were talking, I pulled out my camera and photographed both of them by the light coming through the windows overlooking the beach. They tolerated me without saying a word.

Two of my favorite people.


  1. Howard was my friend I found out he pasted away Jan 22 of 2016. Sadly I found out many months after as I would liked to say my farewells. I have not heard ant news on Bente. Two interesting and good people.

  2. Oh my gosh! Ive been trying to get a hold of my friend because my birthday and anniversary wishes have gone unanswered by Howard for some time and thought maybe he changed his contact info. So after I noticed in my 'drafts' folder, a December 12 birthday wish that I apparently didn't send because I didn't have a current email address so I 'googled' areas of which I knew Howard was involved so I could locate him again and found this article...where I learned he had passed away :o(. Im saddened. Thank you for inadvertently letting me know.