Archive for the ‘Thanks’ Category
One of the single best things you can do as the resident photographer of your house is give back the gift of your skills to your family. Be the domestic documentarian.
This is what we can do, as shooters. It is a small thing to give back, considering the preponderance of annoying stuff that goes along with just having a photog in the family. We’re pains in the neck, right? Not to mention absolute hell on relationships. If you’re a wedding shooter, bye-bye weekends. Sports shooter? Ditto. And, if you’re a serious, serious sports shooter, say of football, so long Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, potentially. If you explore the rock and roll scene, you stumble home at 3 am, sporting bloodshot eyes, with perhaps the whiff of reefer smoke picked up from the party hard crowd, only to slump in front of the computer and move your pictures. And if you ever make it to shooting for the National Geographic, by certain estimations you have made it to the mountaintop of photography. And, what you may find, is that hard to attain peak can also be a graveyard for relationships . If you are a traveling sort of location photog, you miss lots of birthdays, first steps, and soccer games.
Photography is an endeavor that tries the patience of even the most forgiving spouse. We run when others stroll leisurely. We work while others party. We don’t buy advance tickets to grand shows or events for fear we might be on assignment and thus OOT. (Out of town.) When we call a potential subject, our first question is often, “What’s your schedule like?” To hell with our schedule. Our convenience, the mandates of our life, aren’t even on the table for consideration.
Thus, one of the very cool things any photog can do to tip the scales back even slightly in our favor is to be there to document the family’s life and times, such as your mother-in-law’s surprise 80th birthday party.
Mrs. Cahill has been a wonderful, loving, mom to me. Nothing I wouldn’t do for the lady. She accepted me as Annie’s choice all those years ago, and that is an amazing gift, indeed. So it was a hoot planning a surprise party for her, and helping Annie and her sisters, Nancy and Teresa, orchestrate all the energy, subterfuge, and back alley arranging this required. We even had Pietro and his staff, at Terra Sole, our favorite restaurant, ever, in on the deal.
It was fun to do, despite the fact that I had to lie through my teeth to her. After all was said and done, I told Annie we both have to go to confession, big time. At one point, I was arranging things with mom, on the phone, and Annie was scribbling post-its and popping them in front of me. “Say this!” “Don’t say that!” “Say you are making a lunch party for me and she has to come!” I was lucky I didn’t end up that conversation with post-its all over my face. All the shenanigans worked!
Mom was completely floored, and Annie and I did our best to document the shock and then the flood of good wishes. Her friends were there, some from as far back as nursing school. She hadn’t seen some of them in as much as thirty years! Some of the ladies were in their upper 80’s. And, trust me, these gals knew a good party when they saw one. The room was buzzing.
Me? I was afraid mom was gonna be mad at me, so I stuck my face behind the camera and kept flashing, and looking busy. Didn’t really pose hardly any pix. Just shot and moved. Tried party pix with the #D810, and a bit of fill flash, and a 24-70. No light shapers, BTW. Straight up bounce through the diffuser dome. Manual on camera, TTL on flash. Worked out well. It was good to not have to think about it much, as I was so nervous mom was gonna read me the riot act.
(I woulda just blamed Annie and her sisters, for sure. Annie, Teresa and Nancy all worked hard to get this together. Which actually was another good example of how important pictures are to family life. Obviously the pix of mom Cahill’s early life and times were not made on pixels. Annie and Teresa culled the pictures, got scans done, and then Nancy, the resident artist of the family, started collaging like crazy.)
Now, we’ll make a nice album, which will be a simple keepsake for all concerned. And a remembrance, a sort of forgiveness, if you will, the next time I step forward and say, sorry, can’t be home this weekend. Charlotte, the newest addition to the family, below in mom’s arms, will have pictures of her self and her great grandmother. Which is very cool.
Happy birthday, mom!
Best to all for the coming year. And many thanks to readers who have dropped by the blog from time to time. Looking forward to more adventures in 2014! This is a super quiet week here around the studio, as we gear up and try our best to lurch forward into the new calendar. I’ll kick start the blog in the next few days, and we’ll be off once again, chasing pictures and pixels. Hope everyone has a safe, wonderful start to 2014, and best to all, as always!!!
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.
Last year, about this time, I taught at a conference called Luminance, put together by PhotoShelter. It brought a hugely diverse group of talents and interests together under the same tent. One of those very talented people was Allen Murabayashi, the CEO of PhotoShelter, and orchestrator of the conference. His neighborhood in NY is lower Manhattan, and in 2001, he actually lived just by the Trade Towers. We got to talking, and he showed me a picture on his Iphone he had made on 9/11, with the crisp blue sky, and the fires arching upwards, bent on destroying the buildings. It was like a punch in the gut, as pictures from that day are, I’m sure, for many, even now.
A year later, both Allen and PhotoShelter have stepped up on behalf of the collection Giant Polaroids known as the Faces of Ground Zero, and are partnering with me in preserving the collection, and hosting my website. It is a welcome, welcome partnership.
I have managed, sometimes just barely, to keep this collection of huge images, consisting of portraits made of people whose lives intersected the events of that day, together, and safe, in museum quality storage, for 12 years. There are numerous large crates, some weighing in at about 2,000 pounds. Storing 24,000 pounds of anything carries a price tag, especially artwork that requires certain atmospheric parameters. What PhotoShelter has done has been to step up and help, and to individually sponsor two of the images into the permanent safekeeping and care of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
I look forward to many years of collaboration, not only in the realm of portfolio displays, internet presence, and projects with this group of creative folks. If you go to my website, you’ll see new work, and an updated look to the pages.
My thanks go out to Allen, Andrew Fingerman, Chris Owyoung, and Drew Gurian for orchestrating this new website in such smooth fashion. And to the entire PhotoShelter organization for helping to preserve these pictures. They join with Adorama, who has been a friend of the collection for many years, in this ongoing dozen year effort. The museum will be a reality shortly, and with this boost, we might just make it.
This type of wonderful collaboration reminds me yet again that the photo community is indeed, a community. More tk….