Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category
A long time ago, on 7th Avenue.
I’m probably jinxing things here, because it hasn’t been too bad a winter in NY–so far. But man, I used to pray for bad weather. I was living in the city, in the Hotel Beacon, old school, back when the city was broke and the west side of Manhattan was rotting right there along with all the unpicked up garbage. My room cost $210 a month, inc. electric. No air conditioning. Cockroaches big enough to kick ass and take names. My take home pay was $109 a week, as I remember. Things were tight. I was just out of school, and I made noise about it to my mom, about how I didn’t think any job I would get right away could float a NYC apartment. Her response? “Don’t think you’re living here.” I headed for Manhattan.
I worked at the Daily News as a copyboy, and found over time I could submit photos to the newspaper. I couldn’t get an assignment, of course, but what happened on the street was fair game. A daily newspaper like The News always needed weather pictures. Sunny day in the park, torrential rain floods the streets, winter winds blow New Yorkers down the avenue. This I could do. If it was published, I’d get an extra $25 bucks in my paycheck, or, if you look at it this way, a 25% raise for the week. Front page? 100 bucks. High times, big money. Good week. Maybe not McDonalds for an evening or two.
On the odd occasion I got page one, I got a back slap from a couple of the wonderful shooters there who were my mentors, like Danny Farrell, or Jimmy McGrath. I would get the back of the hand from many other veteran shooters on the staff, the ones who outright couldn’t shoot, or were insecure in their skills. That’s a phenomenon I’ve seen repeated to this day. Photogs who are confident, secure about their abilities, help others along and dig it when their pictures get better. Others, not so much. They get scared and bitter, and both their pictures and their personalities wither.
I prayed for rain, snow or sleet. Or sun. Sun so hot a pair of cats took refuge with an ice cream cone.
Or a dog with his tongue out.
Weather pictures. I came in once with a warm weather picture of an enormous lady in a sundress, sitting on a park bench, bending way over to feed the pigeons. Her dress barely contained her boobs, which, when compressed against her knees while she was feeding the flying rats, looked like a pair of seriously explosive air bags. I was prepared to duck. I was working the news desk that night, and Joe Kovach, the editor, started bellowing with laughter. He shouted across the newsroom, “Joe, this isn’t a weather shot! This is a whether or not shot!”
All these years later, bad weather still makes for good pictures. More tk…
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….
We celebrated Earth Day this past week. This observance has been around for a while now, and back in the 70’s I was occasionally assigned to cover some of the events. I shot the above for UPI one year, at an Earth Day observance at the UN. I recall it being the usual, uh, cluster….k, in NY press terminology, with all the papers, the wires, and the TV folks angling for angles and exclusives. I was working for the formidable drill instructor of editors, Larry DeSantis, or LD, as we called him, who told me in no uncertain terms to get the muckety-mucks. In color. Read the rest of this entry »
Is one that is given, or accepted, freely. As a shooter, you can be the recipient of many gifts over the years: The grace of someone’s time, the whimsy of their expression, the fleeting emotion of their eyes the lens traps, forever. Read the rest of this entry »
I like all sorts of music, having grown up in the sixties and seventies. My musical whims are all over the lot, which is probably why Drew and Cali never allow me to plug in my playlists on location.
News came this week that George Jones died. I never photographed him, and only know a few songs of his, but there was a beautiful, suffering quality to his voice. Anybody desperate enough to drive a lawnmower eight miles to town just to get a drink has got something to sing about, for sure.
I did photograph one of the women of his tumultuous life, Tammy Wynette, down at her home, First Lady Acres, in Nashville. Like George, her life was a roller coaster of love, loss, and the lyrics that sprang from it. We only spent a day, but even in that day, I picked up on a wistfulness, a certain ambient pain that lingered around her.
She of course famously wrote, “Stand by Your Man,” of which she once said, “I spent fifteen minutes writing it, and a lifetime explaining it.”
The great thing about being a photog is that you meet people like Tammy. I was working for People Magazine, and one of the smartest, most wonderfully down to earth editors ever, MC Marden. MC was a fan, so I brought Tammy’s Stand by Your Man album with me, and had her sign it to MC, with the alteration: “MCâ€”Stand by Your Magazine.” I believe MC still has it on her wall.
I also made a location snap that still makes me smile, of myself and Tammy reflected in her vanity mirror. I remember saying to her that right then I was the envy of a lot of men, getting a picture made with her. Ever the lady of the house, she smiled knowingly, and fluttered her eyes at me. She knew it was a photo shoot, and she was being flattered, but she liked it, nonetheless.
Music intertwines readily, emotionally with life, and the lives of the musicians who play it. Music sees you through, and it opens your heart. Strains of certain songs are evocative of time and place. Others are a warp speed return to a specific event or memory.
This is certainly true of country music, which I don’t claim to be all that knowledgeable about, but certainly listen to. My life is richer because Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris picked up a guitar and stepped to a microphone. And I do remember that day with Tammy Wynette.