And The Photographs They Took
The walk to Paradise Garden, 1946 W. Eugene Smith
W. Eugene Smith – I met Eugene in 1971 when he was invited to a roundtable on photography at my school. After the session we spent a couple of hours over drinks. One of his most famous photographs was “The walk to Paradise Garden” which was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit “The Family of Man”. He described taking the picture as a grab shot with his Leica. He was out back of his house with some friends and neighbors when he saw his children walking towards the woods. It was over a week before he developed the film and made a quick print.
In a reflective mood that evening he commented that when he was a child he fell off a chair and broke his arm and wouldn’t it be a sad finale at this point in his life if he fell off his barstool and broke his arm again.
I still keep that softcover copy of “The Family of Man” from the 1960’s in my photography book collection.
Dorothea Lang – This is one of photography’s most famous photographs. From 1935 to 1940, Dorothea traveled the country documenting the hardships of the great depression for the Farm Security Administration, of the U.S. Agriculture Department. Lange photographed the people she met and that included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” the iconic image from the period that captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing. Her work is in the collection of the Library of Congress and oddly enough you could order prints made from her original negatives for just a printing fee.
Ansel Adams – The dean of American landscape photographers, was famous for lugging his large view cameras up mountain sides. “Moon and Half Dome” above is my favorite photograph. A friend of mine and another photography student, introduced his mother to Adam’s work. She was an executive with Continental Can Company and contacted him at his studio in Yosemite valley about buying photographs to display at the company headquarters. His reply when he learned the name of the company was that there was no amount of money that could buy his prints.
The Two Photographers That Influenced Me The Most
I had an opportunity to encounter both of these photographers during the Vietnam war and they were responsible for me believing I could make a career in photography.
Larry Burrows – Any one that spent time with Larry understood that he was one of the greatest photojournalists of that era. Burrows died when the helicopter he was in was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos while covering Operation Lam Son 719.
About Reaching Out, “Larry Burrows made a photograph that, for generations, has served as the most indelible, searing illustration of the horrors inherent in that long, divisive war — and, by implication, in all wars.” — Ben Cosgrove, Life Magazine
David Douglas Duncan – I met him briefly “in country”. He was a photojournalist who documented the Vietnam war over several years. He spent several weeks with the Marines at The Battle of Khe Sanh and after that experience he published a book called “I Protest” about the American policy during the war. He is most remembered though for his images of Picasso taken over a few years he spent with the artist. One of my prized possessions is a copy of his “I Protest”.
While the two proceeding photographers inspired me to go to college and study photography their lives also ended up convincing me that a life on the road following wars and disasters didn’t leave much room for a normal life.
Victor Skrebneski – A fashion photographer based out of Chicago. I met Victor when he came to school to give a series of lectures. One evening he told me that he was going to have to leave early to do a shoot he couldn’t pass up. His agent had contacted him about Gulf Oil’s agency wanting him to do a series of outdoor period spreads for some magazine ads. He didn’t want to do it and to get out of it he quoted five times his normal rate. The agent had just called back and told him he had the job with a bonus if he could get it done ahead of schedule. My collection includes several of Victor’s prints.
Bert Stern – I never met Bert but his work inspired me. He was self taught and became famous for his celebrity portraits and his advertising images. I met a photographer who worked in Sterns studio who had an interesting accounting. I believe it was Smirnoff’s agency that wanted a photograph of a martini glass with the pyramids in the background. Most ad studios would have kept the work in shop by doing a back-screen projection of the pyramids. Bert instead took the crew to Egypt and shot the photographs with the actual pyramids in the background.
Pete Turner – I met Pete several times when he had a commercial studio in New York and shortly after that he was picked up to do work for several magazines. Pete was more an artist than a photographer, having this incredible feel for the use of color. His images seemed to always be at the edge of becoming abstract art. He’s one of the few photographers where I see an image and immediately know it’s his.