Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category
Back in the day, when us photo folks toiled away in blessed obscurity, off in the corner of the corporate picture, there were characters. Jim Kenney, the picture editor of Newsweek, was certainly one of these.
To be sure, just like today, the accountants and honchos of that time would continuously fume at this dark art of picture making, wondering why it was necessary, and further, why it cost any money at all, but, blessedly, they didn’t understand it. And, like a child who’s gotten a toy for Christmas they couldn’t really get the hang of, they would poke at it occasionally, look at it from all sides, then realize they couldn’t find the on-off switch, get bored, and drop it back in the jumble of the toy chest along with other misunderstood and forgotten gizmos.
This was a blessing. The lack of intense corporate scrutiny back then allowed for all manner of risk taking and outright shenanigans in the magazine picture game, and a blustery original like Jim Kenney could flourish, to the benefit of us all.
Of course, the accountants shouldn’t have worried, really. None of us were making any money. Magazine assignments back then were rated at 250 bucks a pop, usually attended by limited expenses. But, as opposed to today, when budget boogeymen have choked off the assignment spigot, magazine jobs were readily had. Especially at places like Time and Newsweek, which were magazines that maintained competitive journalistic mandates to cover many more things than they could possibly publish. The phone rang aplenty, and jobs would seemingly drop from the trees. You would shoot the gig, drop off the film, and pray your slides would hit ink. Then, when the mag was off the stands a week later, you would drop off the pix at your agent, who would try to sell them to someone else. No contracts really existed. It was all just handshake deals. I would always get energized by a call from Newsweek photo. I got assigned all over the lot, from Popes and politics to actors and moguls to characters at Disney.
As a shooter, you could do what was referred to as “the 50th St. shuffle,” as Time was located at 50th and Sixth, and Newsweek was over at 50th and Madison. There wasn’t overwhelming security at the buildings, so you could always find somebody to buzz you up, and you could grab coffee and hang out in a picture editor’s cubicle, hoping they would get so exasperated with your lunatic picture proposals they would give you a day rate to go shoot something just to get rid of you.
Picture agencies did the same shuffle, too, toting packages of slides back and forth to the newsweeklies, hoping to entice interest in a photog’s enterprise take of this or that. The big Paris based agencies, Sygma and Gamma, would emblazon their offerings with exclamatory stamps that screamed, “EXCLUSIF! MONDIAL!” Then they would go crosstown to sell basically the same set of slides to the competition. Some of the agents had, well, let’s call it a broad definition of the word, “exclusif!”
Two giants were astride all this mayhem, John Durniak at Time and Jim Kenney over at Newsweek. Newsweek was always the budgetarily disadvantaged of the two. Jim Colton who, over in his estimable blog, wrote about Kenney last week, always said that “Time was a hospital, and Newsweek was a MASH unit.” But being Avis to Time’s Hertz made Newsweek a formidably scrappy competitor, whose nimble picture troops would routinely outfox their bigger adversary.
My earliest adventures in the news game, as limited as they were, came at the behest of Jim, and he was great to work for. I spent time in Northern Ireland for Newsweek, during the troubles, and when things got calm, I dropped down to London and called Kenney to tell him of the move. I remember the conversation. He closed with saying, “If things heat up again, shag back in there and I’ll cover you.” With Kenney, you always knew he had your back, out in the field. It was a good feeling.
He was a competitor in the best sense of the word. During the JP II’s first papal trip to his home country of Poland, we were a Newsweek crew of maybe eight or nine to Time’s fourteen or so. Thing was, no matter how many people any pub could muster, nobody in the photo press corps really had the inside track. That belonged to the papal photographers. All of us would be a flyspeck with a huge lens out in a crowd of a million or so Poles, viewing the Pope in miniature despite all the glass we had jammed onto our cameras. The papal shooters, such as Arturo Mari, would be there with him on the altar using a 20mm lens, fer chrissakes. Kenney would rail about this lack of access, and referred to the papal photogs, always clad in a black suit, a white shirt, and a black tie, as “the fucking penguins.”
He was an original, larger than life. He was a great editor, at a great time in magazine journalism. And, he was also a good guy to sit and have a beer with when things finally calmed down after a Friday night close. He had a nose for news and a swashbuckling knowledge of what it really took to get good pictures of the news.
Rest in peace, Jim. But then, there’s a part of me that hopes not. It’s fun to think he might be up there in the great beyond with his intercom phone, barking at some lost soul in accounting who’s wondering why a first look at Sygma’s output on the royal wedding was gonna cost 30g’s.
I have always liked getting my camera into a different place, so it was no surprise to me that I loved a long ago assignment underneath New York City. I have often climbed something for a unique view, but this time, I went way, way down.
Trademark cigarette drooping from his lip, Tom Clancy stands in the calm swirl of the Chesapeake Bay, a body of water which occasionally had a mention in his novels, in 1988. He was in the throes of the amazing success of The Hunt for Red October, followed on by Red Storm Rising, and many others. He had 17 of his novels hit No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Read the rest of this entry »
Is over at Scott Kelby’s PhotoShop Insider blog. It is, hopefully, a worthwhile read. All best, Joe
Drew is leaving the studio. (His account below.) As I always say, Drew grew up as a drummer in a rock and roll band, but abandoned that unstable lifestyle to embrace the security of freelance photography. And we here at the studio are certainly glad he did. He stayed with us for five years, and was a mainstay as a first assistant, constantly troubleshooting, solving problems, handling the mysteries of post-production and generally being a great road companion, and we certainly saw a lot of road together. (When he joined the studio, he was just another Delta frequent flyer. As he leaves, he is Delta Diamond, having logged easily a half million air miles during his tenure here.) He was a great team player, a talented shooter, and he fit right in with the twisted humor and irreverent conduct of the studio. (FYI, we have no human resources department here.) We will miss him. I will miss him, as beyond all the stuff listed above, he became my good and true friend.
Today’s blog is about Joe. And me.
A real life bro-mance, dream job come true, happily ever-after, fly me to the moon kind of working relationship I’ve experienced over the past 5 years.
He’s one of the few people I know in the industry who’s stayed afloat for 35+ years, has maintained a huge level of respect within the industry and – through it all – has kept a good head on his shoulders. He’s truly one of the most decent human beings I know. Full of integrity, courage, wit and an ongoing quest for pasta and red wine, Joe has taught me much more than just ‘the ropes’.
(My first ever tear sheet, accompanying Joe’s Power Grid story in National Geographic)
We all know the life of a photographer isn’t a 9 to 5 gig, but working with Joe is one of the more all-encompassing workplace scenarios one could imagine. Joe and I have spent a lot of time together, and by that I mean an average of 70% of the year on the road, and sometimes a good deal more. That means not only working in the field, but traveling together, eating together and often seeing more of each other than our significant others and families.
(The Flash Bus crew)
Working with Joe has been a major turning point in my career. Prior to joining Joe I was a young photographer/musician living in a relatively small town and earning a living shooting mostly weddings and events. I didn’t have a whole lot of clarity of where to go from there. I started applying to graduate schools for photojournalism – and in the midst of all that – Joe’s former assistant (Brad Moore) was leaving and Joe offered me the position. My game plan was to work with Joe for two years. As time went on, more travel came upon us and I just couldn’t help but to sign on for more adventure and experience. I got to climb the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; I had my own helicopter and pilot while on assignment for National Geographic; and was once lead by a heavily armed militia through traffic in Nigeria. That’s just a glimpse into the countless extraordinary, hilarious and sometimes dangerous tales I have from the past few years.
(Cali and I surrounded by drones, on-location for National Geographic. By the way, Cali’s a great guy, and an incredibly talented shooter. He’s done an amazing job transitioning into the first assistant position, and I can’t begin to say how excited I am to hear about his travels.)
But even at the highest points in my time with Joe, Lynn and the entire studio family, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of an inner struggle. As amazing as things have been, all I’ve wanted is to be a full-time photographer, and I’ve felt the itch to go out on my own more recently, especially in the last year. The thing is, I’ve had the absolute best apprenticeship I could have ever hoped for: Joe has been an amazing mentor, Lynn has balanced me with business smarts, and I’ve been immersed into the culture of the best and brightest photo talent in the World. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel around the Globe and back again. The thing is, if I didn’t want/need to be my own photographer, I could work with Joe happily for a very, very long time.
(Rolling Stone tear sheet, from the March, 2013 issue)
But the time has come for me and I’m now officially off on my own: with more clarity than I had five years ago, lots of contacts in the industry, tons of technical know-how and hands-on experience from working with one of the best guys out there. If there was ever to be a good time to make that move, it feels like this is it, and I’m incredibly excited to create a body of work that’s all my own. Even with all that, i’m just as scared as I am excited to embark on this journey into the world of freelance photography. Yes, I’m absolutely going to figure it out, like all things I do. I am more passionate about photography than anything else. I know it’s going to take some time to gain traction and that my future may hold nights of Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets. But I’m ok with it.
(John Butler of John Butler Trio)
I became interested in photography at a young age through a love of live music. Back then I just wanted to capture live moments from my favorite bands. Over time my work has improved and a true passion towards music, photography and their marriage remains to this day. Most recently I’ve been trying to evolve my work away from live music and into a fresh perspective. I’m not changing the world and I’m not reinventing the wheel, but every now and again I feel like I’m onto something really good. It’s in those moments I feel as though I’ve moving a step closer towards crafting a unique aesthetic that’s my own.
(Tyler Glenn of The Neon Trees)
Choosing to work for Joe was the best career decision I had made up until that point, and I’m certain that i’ll be able to look back upon this transition in a few years, and say the same thing.
(My incredibly patient girlfriend, Jessica)
Joe, Lynn, Cali, Lynda, Annie: You’ve all been the best friends, colleagues and family one could ever ask for, and I’m grateful for the time and memories we’ve shared.
It’s been a blast to meet and get to know lots of you out on the road, and I invite you all to keep in touch.
You can find me at any of these places: