Born in Russia on October 18, 1921, Yuri Kutschuk and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1939, where his name was anglicized as Jerry Cooke. His aunt, Cecile Kutschuk, who studied photojournalism at the Rhine University and worked for Associated Press in Berlin, came to the United States in 1935, started a photo agency in New York City called Pix Inc. She gave Cooke his first camera, a baby Rolleiflex. Cecile Kutschuk put Cooke to work in the Pix darkroom, where he apprenticed with photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt and George Karger. The new LIFE Magazine photography editor Wilson Hicks hired many Pix photographers, including Robert Capa, Phillippe Halsman, Lee Friedlander, Nina Leen, and many others launching their careers in photojournalism.
A founding member of the Society of Magazine Photographers, now called the American Society of Media Photographers, Cooke served as ASMP president from 1951-52. During his presidency, ASMP News became a magazine and was licensed by the State of New York to act as a Labor Union.
In 1969, Cooke and photographer Bradley Smith co-founded the nature stock photo agency Animals Animals. The agency was sold in the late 1970s and renamed Animals, Animals / Earth Scenes.
Cooke shot 47 covers for Sports Illustrated, including many from the early days starting in 1954. Cooke was the Director of Photography for Sports Illustrated in 1974.
Cooke spoke five languages, visited five continents and well over a hundred countries. He has photographed 6 Olympic Games and 42 Kentucky Derbies. Jerry Cooke passed away on October 27, 2005.