Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category
Leave on Sunday for Nigeria, and the NIPHEC gathering in Lagos. Really looking forward to returning to Africa, where I have worked many times, but have not been for quite a while. I anticipate many changes, and I look forward to working with amazing colleagues, such as Michael Grecco, Seun Akisanmi, Leke Adenuga, Folake Ojeikere & Shola Animashaun. It’ll be a terrific week, a great place to teach, and to learn. Many, many thanks to the organizer, Seun, who has put heart and soul into this conference. Below, some recollections from my first visit to the astonishing continent of Africa.
His trademark phrase went with him everywhere. He was the steward of the city during some tough times, before it became Wall Street’s darling handmaiden, and the very ground known as Manhattan started burping money out to any developer armed with a backhoe and a variance to build something, anything, anywhere. He was gregarious, controversial, desperate to be liked, a charmer of the press, a cheerleader for the Big Apple, and a dream to cover. Read the rest of this entry »
Here’s a handy thing about blogging. I wrote about Bo Jackson last week, and mentioned a bunch of our original material from that long ago take seemed to have vanished. I likened chromes to being like socks that sometimes just don’t make it back into the drawer. I talked about getting into a batting cage with him and feeling like a decoy duck at a carnival shooting gallery, but we had no slide from that encounter.
Lo and behold, our intrepid studio manager Lynn, contacted SI, just to check, and somehow a bunch of these images had gotten stuck in one of their drawers, inadvertently. Years had passed. Never thought about it. Got ‘em back. Happy about that. More tk…
We’ve all been lifted up lately by the shows of daring, stamina, sportsmanship, and excellence in London. In the midst of all of them, a tiny Olympian with a huge smile and an embracing manner defined the term “grace under pressure” and spun, whirled and smiled her way to the all around gymnastics title. Little Gabby Douglas, aka “the flying squirrel” lifted the whole room (the whole room in this instance being the world) with her performance and heart warming demeanor.
That smile harked me back to my very first assignment for LIFE magazine, in 1984, when they sent me out after the LA Olympiad to capture another pixie who had leaped, double spun and vaulted into our hearts…Mary Lou Retton. As bubbly in person, off stage, as she was in the public arena, we spent just a few hours together after the Games were over. My mission, obviously, was to capture the smile and the personality….and the medals.
Mary Lou won the overall gold and several others of different shades to bring her medal haul to five. At that point, as I recall, she had yet to be photographed with all of them. So, in the brief period we had together, we conjured a hat in honor of her training home in Texas and figured out a way to rig the medals on it. (This was quick, direct magazine photography at that point. No stylists, makeup, smoke machines or art directors out there with us.)
Made the frame, and the one below, on Kodachrome, just flying blind with the light and moving fast. Needed a twofer, and the effervescent Mary Lou had a blast with the stuffed bear. It was the picture above, though, that got the most notice.
One of the reasons the pic with the hat and medals was important was the fact that she had not been shot with all five of them prior to this. We made some frames, and Mary Lou was as easygoing and gracious as could be. But then, the reporter I was with fielded a phone call from her agent, who demanded that I surrender the film and leave it behind. Evidently there was a big deal going down with a sponsor, behind the scenes, and the exclusivity of a pic of Mary Lou with all her medals was a talking point. Needless to say, the few rolls I shot came with me, back to LIFE. (Mary Lou couldn’t have cared a whit, by the way, about all the backstage shenanigans. She was as fun to photograph as the pictures indicate.) But it does get interesting when the agents get involved. (And by the way, I’m totally with the Olympians in terms of sponsorships, support, you name it. They labor, intensely, largely in obscurity, for a sliver of a chance at success that comes along once every four years. If they do well, I say go for it!)
The pictures never ran in LIFE. When I got back to NY, I found that the assignment had taken a different direction, and it was pulled from me, and my pictures were killed. Another shooter was assigned, who went on to photograph Carl Lewis as Hamlet and other more elaborate constructions. I thought, well, that was a brief, but interesting career at LIFE that I just had. One job and done.
But….and here’s the vagaries of the path you walk as a shooter, the very next month. I got a phoner from the mag and assigned to a far bigger job, on the art scene on the lower East Side of NYC. Similar in a way, as I was once again photographing something gold.
Poppo, from Poppo and the Go Go Boys. Painted gold, on a roof at sunrise. As I always say, stuff like this happens down on the Lower East Side all the time:-)
Memorial services were held recently for Micron Chairman Steve Appleton, killed in airplane accident earlier in the year. A stunt pilot, scuba diver, surfer, off road racing enthusiast, and a black belt in Taekwondo, he pushed the limits on a pretty continuous basis. “The older you get, the more risk you should take,” he evidently told a reporter once during an interview.
I met him, briefly, in Mexico. I was hired by Micron (who makes Lexar digital media cards, which have been a staple in my bag since I picked up a digital camera) to shoot (briefly) the Baja 1000 back in 2006. I have to suspect that it was Steve’s enthusiasms and urgings that got Micron involved in this crazed ritual of off road driving prowess held every year in very rough country. It was a massive undertaking involving dozens of crew, multiple cars, mechanics, tractor trailers, helicopters, and of course, teams of drivers. I had exactly one day to shoot the race, which meant I riccocheted around the dusty back roads of northern Mexico, shooting what and when I could. I think I intersected with the race three times, and shot the Micron cars as they zipped past me in seconds and vanished in the flying dirt. For my part in the actual race coverage, I saw the Micron vehicles for less than a minute. Steve, of course, piloting one of the cars, won his division.
Pretty amazing accomplishment given how nutty the race actually is. As you can see below, the cars get air quite frequently, and there are no guard rails or crowd controls. Lots of spectators are drunk by, say, 9am. I made the below while dodging beer bottles filled with pebbles that were being thrown at the photog guy who was standing in front of everyone.
I abandoned my fruitless quest for the Micron cars at a pit stop lit with torches in the interior of Mexico, around midnight.
Also managed to squeeze a camera inside one of the Micron cars, and it made the 1000 mile trip.
Given the dearth of race coverage I could provide, the impromptu portrait session Steve graciously agreed to loomed large in my coverage. We went driving together, and when he was rocking that car over hills and rocks and through the blinding sands of Mexico, I saw his face come alive. Not the typical CEO portrait session. Not the typical CEO. Godspeed.