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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Goodbye, Danny…

Apr 20

In Friends, history at 5:36am

When I first arrived in NYC, nurturing faint hopes to become a photographer in the Big Apple, Danny Farrell was the dean of NYC press photography, a class act, and much respected. A shooter’s shooter, nobody was tougher when the job was on the line. He delivered. A resplendent generalist who shot it all, his particular genius was on full display at Yankee Stadium, and at the tracks, Belmont and Aqueduct. Baseball and the horses—nobody beat him. He loved pictures, and life. As good as he was, he was also approachable and decent, always up for a laugh and a beer, or maybe even a good “martooni” as he occasionally called them.

He passed away this week. I will miss that laugh, his distinctive voice, and his wisdom. We will all miss his pictures. The NY Daily News, where he spent his entire 50 year career, did a great thing this week, running a portfolio of his images. Do yourself a favor and hit this link. One photographer, with keen eyes, and an unerring touch for human moments, helped create our collective memory. Below is his most famous frame.

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A year or so ago, I went to Danny’s house, and shot the below. My way of saying thanks.


In 1976, I went to NYC straight from photo school at Syracuse University, seeking work as a photog. It was a foolish act, fueled by the lack of knowing and the hubris of youth. New York, a stern taskmistress, sorted me out quite quickly.

The only work I found that was connected to photojournalism was as a copyboy at the New York Daily News, New York’s picture newspaper. They had at the time over 50 staff photographers and a daily run of well over a million copies.

I ran copy from desk to desk, got coffee for nickel tips, and delivered lunches to columnists. My connection to photos was to make subway runs, collecting bags of film from the photogs, especially the sports guys, at the stadiums or Madison Square Garden, and race deadline back to 42nd St. I took home $107 a week, lived in a cockroach laden, tiny, hotbox of an apartment. It was broken into on a couple of occasions, and I lost all my camera gear. I also lost my dad that first year in NY.

No one even thought of me as having potential to actually shoot the pictures. My job was just to run my legs off with bags of pictures somebody else shot. I would go home at night, sit on my bed in the wash of an old, oscillating fan on the floor, and listen to the traffic blaring on Broadway. The stench of garbage, wrapped in the heat of the summer, drifted through the window, leeching into the stained carpet, the sheets, even my sweat. I would sit there in the dark and weep.

It was about that time that Danny Farrell looked at my work. The fact that such a photographic luminary took the time out to look at the portfolio of a desperate copy kid was an act of kindness I have never forgotten. I was broke, running out of hope, and thinking about packing it in. He looked at my pictures. He said, “Kid, you know a picture when you see one. Hang in there.”

When I was sent to Yankee Stadium for a film run, I would race to get there early, and watch him. He shot baseball with a Nikkor 400mm f5,6, with gaffer tape arrows on the barrel, marking the focus points for second base and home plate. Audaciously, he would occasionally give me the camera and lens and let me shoot an inning. I framed up second base once, playing with the focus, and was off his arrow mark. He quickly said to me, “Kid are you sharp there?” I was not, and I told him I was just playing with the focus throw. He relaxed and nodded. “You know, I would double check myself if you thought it was sharp. You got those young eyes.” I know now whereof he spoke. I no longer have young eyes, and good AF is a blessed event, not available to the shooters of that day.

His mantra in bright sun was “A thousand at f11.” I remember one brilliant day, another photog proclaimed loudly in the photog bullpen at the stadium, “So is it two thousand at f8?” Danny said yes, but “I’d rather be a thousand at 11.”

He was laid to rest wearing a tie picturing horses, racing for the finish line, where he would have been waiting. Also, there was a Nikon camera, created of black and silver decorations. At the bottom was a banner–Always at thousand-f11.


At his funeral mass, the fine photojournalist Kathy Kmonicek made a picture of Dan’s great grandson, Braydon, saluting his great grandfather’s coffin as it passed. An amazing, spontaneous echo to mark the passing of a remarkable man.

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I will miss him. He meant a lot to all shooters, but in particular the “boys” in the studio, like Johnny Roca and myself. We grew up in his shadow, learning, listening and laughing. We are better for it. A print he signed for me, of one of my favorite pictures, is treasured. Danny Farrell’s signature on a picture about the Knicks winning. Best of a couple worlds, right there.

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Up where you are now, Danny, I’m sure it’s a thousand at 11. And, if by chance we meet again, it would be my honor to run your film once more.

More tk….



With Thanks….

Mar 26

In Friends, Memories, Thanks at 8:00am

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I’ve always enjoyed the company of photographers. So, it was truly enjoyable to share time and stories this week with a group of extraordinarily, wonderfully talented shooters, all of whom share the good fortune of being called a Nikon Ambassador.

At an evening gathering of most of the Nikon USA staff, each ambassador was asked to show a quickie version of their work. In my case, that meant squeezing 40 years into five minutes. I actually asked forgiveness for showing a bit of emotion. In photo school, in the 70’s, we used to hang at the darkroom, flipping through issues of this magical magazine called Nikon World. In it were the color treasures of the day, legendary pix shot by the likes of Jay Maisel, Eric Meola, Pete Turner, Anthony Edgeworth, and Michel Tcherevkoff. I pored over that magazine, dreaming, thinking that if I could ever shoot a picture that might come to the attention of Nikon, and this magazine, it would be a career well spent.

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And, there I was, at the podium, a Nikon Ambassador, 42 years after buying a Nikkormat camera with a 50mm lens, at Willoughby’s Camera, in Manhattan.

I know all of us invited into the program offer profound thanks to Toru Iwaoka, the head of Nikon USA, and the entire Nikon staff for this positive recognition, for making us partners, seeking our opinions, and simply celebrating the long, tough task of being a professional photographer, which by definition means turning in seaworthy work, year after daunting, exhilarating year. In an age when virtually anyone can shoot a good or even excellent frame or two, here and there, now and then, there is a durability about this group, a staying power both to their pictures and their personalities. But the most profound thanks go to Mike Corrado, my blessedly inappropriate, ever fiery brother. He took the notion of this program and charged with it, opening doors, knocking over obstacles and most likely, breaking some of the furniture along the way. His non-stop evangelism for shooters is legendary. His passion for photography is constant. His friendship is a rock.

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Above, flying Mikey by Tamara Lackey. Below, from Dixie Dixon’s twitter feed, a group of lovely and talented shooters–Bambi Cantrell, Tamara Lackey, and Dixie, wearing her lucky hat! #nikonambassadors

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More tk…..

A Good Picture Editor!

Dec 10

In Friends, history at 9:59am

Today’s blog is over at Jimmy Colton’s estimable Z PhotoJournal.

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It is high praise to refer to someone as a good picture editor. That means that he or she is possessed of certain qualities.  Among them, and not in any particular order,  would be a deep sympathy for the uncertain craft of being a photographer; an understanding of the near keening need photographers have to engage in their trade, and to tell stories that move people and create understanding; the necessary patience, acumen and diplomacy to be the benevolent bridge between the raging beast of the photographers’s needs, demands (and ego) and the matter-of-fact nature of the publication in question, which is invariably run by at least some folks who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any need or mandate other than to sell issues and make some damn money.

As a very good editor told me once, photographers think about their story. Editors think about the magazine. The issue, in toto. A picture editor has to think about both. They have to be concerned about the overall look and feel and timeliness of the whole package about to be sent to the newsstand.  They have to think of the flow of a story, as it moves from page to page, and the linkages and issues the pictures address. They have to be dispassionate, and judge a picture based on the picture, and not favor the fevered account of a photographer who will occasionally be wildly exclamatory in the description of what he or she did to get said photo. It’s not about the shooter, it’s about the picture, and sometimes bad news has to be delivered. “The take doesn’t work.” Or, “They killed the story.”

They have to deliver this news in supportive fashion, so the photog knows they can rise from the ashes of a tough take and still have the confidence to deliver the goods on the next take.

And a good picture editor has to take the heat and defend the shooter. We are rarely in the room when judgement is handed down, sometimes unfairly. Many a good photo has gone unpublished or disregarded in the world of publishing and it’s up to the picture editor to fight to the last yard, that boundary line where they pull up just short of being fired for their passionate defense of the picture.

Being a good picture editor is a tough, essential job. And Jimmy is one of the best. We started in this business as kids, gadding about Poland, chasing the Pope. I shot probably the toughest assignment I’ve ever shot for him. (I talk a bit about it in the interview. It was a near impossible, expensive picture, and he stuck with me on it, defended the process, and got the image in the magazine. Wheeling and dealing at a major magazine is not for the faint of heart, and many a photog out there knows how good it was to have the certainty that while they were in the field, Jimmy had their back at the magazine.)

I’m so glad he is out there on the internet, writing about the craft and practice of picture making, which is an endeavor he has so much experience with. Z PhotoJournal is a great stopping by point in the cluttered world of photo news. Just like he did at Newsweek, or Sports Illustrated, when he would go through a take, he cuts to the chase, and distills what is important to remember about pictures.

He is a good picture editor, and a dear friend. More tk…..

The Nebraska Project

Dec 3

In Friends at 8:57am

One of the best ways to start a career in photography has traditionally been to get a job as a newspaper/wire service shooter. If one survives the very irreverent dip and dunk process of the daily news game, you arrive at a place photographically where you feel confident shooting just about anything. Because, at a newspaper, that’s what you do.

Bill Frakes and Laura Heald just launched an intensely personal, heartfelt project about Bill’s home state, called, simply The Nebraska Project. The directness of the title reflects the place the pictures address—the sparse, beautiful, no frills state of Nebraska.

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You know Bill as a sports shooter. He has been a long time, formidable staffer and contributor to Sports Illustrated, and has authored some of its most memorable moments and coverages. He has not just the talent, but the drive and intensity to drill through the bureaucracies and red tape of events like Olympiads and Kentucky Derbies, and fight to get his cameras in the right place. He works connections, angles, and the behind the scenes wheels and deals as well as he works his cameras.

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(Lots of folks might think that you show up at these places wearing a shiny SI badge and you are ushered to a prime seat in a great position and people are ferrying you lattes in between the making of great picture after great picture. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before you even get the cameras out of the bag, you have to do a ton of work. Scouting, negotiating, relationship building, bartering, barking, clamping, wiring, testing and re-testing, all takes place in exhaustive fashion. And then, even after all that, you just never know when a ref or a TV network cameraman will block your angle.)

So what’s he doing shooting landscapes—beautifully? Wait a minute, this isn’t track and field, fella.

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No, it isn’t. But what Bill has done has photographed from the heart, and relied on all that experience, much of it gained back in his newspaper days at the Miami Herald, when he and his mates won a Pulitzer for covering the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The crunching grind of newspapering hones skills that stay with you your whole career, whether you are shooting a hundred meter dash, or a vibrant country sky. You know how to tell a story, no matter the subject matter.

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Bill and Laura have told a wonderful story here, albeit one off their usual assignment path. After working in 135 countries and all fifty states, Bill went back home with his cameras, and took us all along (check out some of the coverage here).


More tk…


The Power of a Returned Photograph

Nov 13

In Friends at 7:09pm

Dave Burnett is over in Dubai right now, working with Mohamed Somji and our dear friends at GPP. I have known David since the late 70’s, and have always stood back in awe as he amassed a visual archive that is the stuff of our collective histories. Got a wonderful email from him this morning that mentioned Ravi’s Restaurant. (I’m in Hong Kong, and bouncing off the walls of my hotel with the false energy of jet lag masked by a couple espressos.)

Last year, I made a few portraits of the staff at Ravi’s, a wonderful restaurant on the streets of one of the those out of the way neighborhoods in Dubai, far from the soaring towers of steel and glass. Beautiful food, and the kitchen crew are an affable, decent bunch. David and Mo wandered over for a meal last night, and Mo had thoughtfully taken the time to make some prints out of the quick pix I had shot last year. 

It was just heart warming to see these expressions, all the way from Dubai to Hong Kong. I have to expect this doesn’t happen everyday for these fellas. Thank you David and Mo….makes my day. Or night. Or…whichever it is.

And, it appears their visit wasn’t just about distributing pictures. David, ever the story teller, sent this as well. When you’re talking Ravi’s, it’s all about the bread.

More tk….