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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

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 Many a good photo has gone unpublished or disregarded in the world of publishing and it’s up to the picture editor to fight to the last yard, that boundary line where they pull up just short of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…..

Congrats to Joe T!

Aug 25

In history, In The Field, Stories at 6:40am

This past weekend, Joe Torre’s #6 was officially retired at Yankee Stadium. He rightly took his place among the pinstriped legends. I worked with Joe a number of times over the years, and he always proved to be an affable subject. I wrote about the above snap in The Moment It Clicks.

I shot it in the aftermath of Frank Torre’s heart transplant surgery, performed by the famous Dr. Mehmet Oz. Frank and Joe were not only brothers, but also one of those rare tandems of siblings who both made it to the big leagues. I was assigned to shoot the trio, at Yankee stadium, for a story on alternative medicine. At about noon, on a sunny day. As I think I asked in the book, “What do you do with three relatively lumpy guys who are waiting for you to tell them to do something interesting.?” In five minutes or less. In bad light.

The answer, as it often can be, was a big, single blow of light, in this case a 74″ Octa. One light, full power, open up the faces, and beat back the sun. The operative thing that goes through my mind during a session like this is always “KISS!” Keep it simple, stupid. No time for anything fancy.

But, if you leave these guys alone and don’t direct them, all you got is three different head shots, only all in the same picture. So, you gotta have an idea, and venture it, at the risk of hearing no, or even worse, being ridiculed for suggesting something outlandish or stupid. With Joe and Frank, though, I knew I had a couple good guys who had spent enough time in locker rooms to respond to “How about giving Dr. Oz a big, Brooklyn smooch?” Which set the doc to beaming. Three minutes or so, and I left with a picture for LIFE.

Shot Joe and his equally famous golf buddy Rudy Giuliani for the cover of Golf Digest, also at the old Yankee Stadium.

We shot this in the left field warmup area, hence the rumpled seamless. The biggest problem I had was that as soon as the team got wind that the skipper and the mayor were doing a photo shoot, they started pulling home run balls over the left field wall during batting practice, hoping for mischief, or perhaps to see one of my lights explode. One ball was a screamer that might have done some damage, but we were saved by Mo Rivera, who Joe described as the best pure athlete on the team. Rivera made a helluva grab, and the set stayed safe.

Congrats to Joe, who always made my job easy. More tk….

 

 

 

A Life of Laughter

Aug 12

In history, Memories, News at 8:03am

A bright light just went out. Robin Williams could speak faster than most of us can think. And when he spoke (often in tongues) we laughed, long, hard and well.

Only photographed him once. Typical of his irreverent whimsy, he walked onstage to rehearse wearing a “Forty F%&*$#&G Niners” t-shirt, and dared the assembled photogs to take his picture and put that in your “family f%$*(**&^%g newspaper.” Had to bring my timing to get a publishable snap.

We were all lucky to get anything sharp. He kept it lively, doing his routine, and riffing here and there. His pinball wizard brain kept us anywhere from chuckling to outright howling. I know I missed a bunch of pics just standing there, slack jawed at the pace of it, camera in my hands and not to my eye, giggling like an idiot. Old style chrome, EPT pushed one stop. Radio City Music Hall, 1982. Long time ago, and lots of laughter since then.

Thank you….Godspeed…..more tk…..

 

We’ve Come a Long Way!

Jul 14

In history, Tips & Tricks at 2:12pm

I’ve been friends with Mike Corrado, the originator, orchestrator, and pied piper of the merry band of disparate, dysfunctional (hey, we’re photographers) talented oddballs who make up the Nikon Ambassador crew, for more than 25 years. He is a blood brother, a good shooter, and a fierce advocate for photogs and their worth. He is also blessedly inappropriate.

Together, we have lost a prototype Nikon camera in Miami Bay, smashed another one perched on the end of a hang glider into a telephone pole, and had a 70-200mm lens run over by a truck. We at one point tried to run a photo set on a beach spitting distance from another crew who were running a full blown porno shoot complete with scuba tanks, fins, masks, but no swim suits. Needless to say, Mike’s attention on that occasion was, uh, divided.

 

He also tends to show up on these occasions with the coolest, newest toys. Such as last week when he loaned me his newly minted D810, and, in the briefest of interludes, I shot 27 frames with it. Luckily for me, during that two minute stint, I had a wonderful subject, Joe McFadden, a Schuylkill River rowing legend, in front of my lens, standing in equally wonderful window light. I shot quickly, hand held, at ISO 1600.

My current iteration of this camera, the D800E, to me has been a camera all about control. I use it in the studio, and work with it when I need the res, have the time to manage the buffer, and shoot in the realm of lower ISO. (Like a flash portrait, go figure.) But, when confronted with the great unknown, a coverage that could go any which way, something that might head into the fire swamp of high ISO, I’ve dragged out a D4 or a D4S.

The D810 keeps the allure of high res, but removes the fear of high ISO. It was nothing short of remarkable.

In the days of ASA, 1600 was the magic number. It was a frontier. It was a factor of speed that enabled you to shoot most night time sports and still come back with a reasonable facsimile of what your eyes actually saw. To go beyond that number was like going north of the wall. Few came back to tell about it, or get another assignment. Below is an example of Tri-x hot souped in a closet of a darkroom at Yankee Stadium in 1978. Good shot, but grain you can drive a truck through.

Same with Giorgio Chinaglia, here heading the ball for the NY Cosmos, also circa 1978.

Film was a tricky beast to manage, occasionally, and I speak from the rueful experience of having mismanaged it on all too many a job. Below is a one of my favorite portraits of Carly Simon. I had to overexpose, given the nature of the bright sky behind her, which blows the neg apart a good deal. I could have done better with my focus, too. (I think I should have used a flash maybe? Sigh.) Still her ebullient expression carries the day for me, and I love the frame. Just wish I had done better. Or had a D810.

I’ve been living in the digital world of photography for quite some time now, and the technology can still take me by surprise. I shake my head in wonder. As Captain Jack Aubrey said in Master and Commander,  “What a fascinating modern age we live in.”

More tk….

With Thanks…

May 21

In history at 9:48am

Visited the 9/11 Museum on Friday night. Wandering the halls there was powerfully, meaningfully difficult. The images, feelings, and audio recordings that you walk through and among were staggering in their impact, and ricochet like an emotional pinball through your entire being—head, heart and gut. Read the rest of this entry »