R.I.P. Bert Stern

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Bert Stern was one of the first photographers whose work turned me on to photography. His ‘Last Sitting’ of Marilyn Monroe made him famous, but even as a kid, I can remember being drawn to his images in magazines. Advertising and editorial pages in the 60′s and 70′s were plastered with his work. His portfolio could be used to illustrate just about everything you see on “Mad Men”. Later, when I become more and more involved in photography, I learned who he was. I bought a book of his early work that I have to this day. Looking at the photographs in that book brought back all those memories of my early childhood and like a lightbulb going off over my head, it was then I knew I was meant to be a photographer. For me, he defined what a photographer was all about. He was single-minded in his passion for creating memorable imagery. His work transcended commercial photography…he was seen as a cultural hero…a straight-up Rock Star. And for more than a decade he was the most sought-out guy in the business. But the excess, copious amounts of drugs, alcohol and failed relationships took its toll and he quite literally burned out and disappeared from the business. He resurfaced in the late 80′s as a kinder, gentler, Bert, but the World had changed and the days of jetting off to Egypt to shoot a martini glass in the sand were long gone…

Bert died Tuesday. He was 83.

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R.I.P. Alan Abelson

Alan Abelson & Brad Trent

Me and Alan at the 2008 Roundtable

Alan Abelson, the veteran financial journalist and longtime writer of the “Up and Down Wall Street” column in Barron’s Magazine, died last Thursday. The former Editor of Barron’s was a regular member of the panel who quizzed the Roundtable members each year about their predictions on the coming years financial markets, and as many of you probably know, I’ve shot that Roundtable issue for the past seven years. Alan was well-known as being a thorn in the side of Wall Street for his fearless style of journalism. Ben Stein, the writer, actor, economist, and humorist who was a longtime friend of Alan’s, wrote in the American Spectator

“…His columns were dour, hilarious, insightful. He never bought into the prevailing “wisdom” of Wall Street. It was all about hucksterism and self-promotion. He realized that from the first day until the last. He could and would deflate any balloon, from the dirigibles of the Fed to the smaller ones of hedge funds. There is no one like him now. The rest of us are just ordinary people. He was Superman.”

Goodbye Superman.

Paula Lerner

Paula Lerner died Monday. While I knew that she had been fighting cancer for a long time, the news still cut to my core. Paula was truly one of most genuinely special people you could hope to meet. I first got to know her during the early beginnings of the Editorial Photographers trade association. As its first Vice President, I got to see first-hand what a tenacious fighter she could be. Since she was based out of Boston, for the most part, ours was an email and phone friendship, but every year she would be there for the post-Photo Expo dinner that Michael Grecco and I host, and I can still feel the warm, strong hug she would wrap around me on her arrival…and the even bigger embrace when she said her goodbyes.

To her husband Thomas, and her daughters, Maia and Eliana…I am so sorry for your loss.

Goodbye Sweet Paula. We loved you dearly…

November 15, 1984: Before Whitney Was Famous…

Back in the day, one of the guys I assisted quite a bit was Tony Costa, an L.A.-based celebrity photographer who was always coming to New York to shoot for People Magazine. He called me up and said we were gonna be shooting Cissy Houston’s daughter who was getting a lot of notices because she had been recording with Jermaine Jackson. It wasn’t a big deal shoot…just a quick couple of rolls of B&W on seamless in a cheapie midtown rental studio for a one-paragraph mention in the magazine…and then Whitney showed up with a couple of dresses she borrowed for the shoot. No entourage, not even a hair and makeup artist…just a shy 21 year-old girl who was terrified cuz she was gonna be in People magazine. Tony and I were floored! Then she tells us she’s got an album coming out soon and she was signed by Wilhelmina to model and suddenly our quickie shoot had me running out to buy more film cuz we ran out after ten minutes!

And today it’s all so damned sad.

R.I.P. Bud Greenspan

A million years ago…well, back in 1995…I photographed Bud Greenspan. Bud, of course, is famous for his documentaries about the Olympics. One of those touchstone memories I have from my childhood is being glued to the TV, watching them whenever they were aired. How could I ever have imagined that years later I would have the privilege to photograph the man behind these wonderful time capsules of history, but there I was, shooting him for the 1996 Olympic Program! We did the shots the art director wanted and then, just before he had to leave, I asked for one more moment of his time. If you knew anything about Bud, you probably remember seeing him behind a camera on the sidelines of an Olympic event, with those heavy glasses he wore sitting on the top of his bald head…that’s what I wanted to capture. A few quick Polaroids and we got it. A partially solarized negative with the director staring back at me…almost looking right through me…it’s always been one of my favorite portraits.

R.I.P. Marty Forscher

In yesterday’s New York Times, I read of the passing of Marty Forscher.

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Marty was as old skool as it got…I mean, he got his start serving in the Navy photographic unit headed by Edward Steichen, for God’s sake! After the war, he opened his own repair shop, first on Lexington Avenue, but later at the 37 West 47th Street location that everybody knew. Professional Camera Repair wasn’t just a repair place…it was one of the ‘hubs’ of the New York photo business. The old bulletin board in the waiting area was filled with assistant’s resumes, studio shares, camera ‘for sale’ notices, photo show openings and just about everything else you could imagine that related to photography in this city. And when Marty wasn’t simply fixing cameras, he was always coming up with ways to make them do things that the manufacturers didn’t think of…or inventing his own stuff…the most famous of which was the Forscher ProBack. What a simple idea…a Polaroid back for a 35mm camera…except is wasn’t. There were all sorts of optical reasons why you couldn’t simply slap a Polaroid back onto a 35mm camera, and before the ProBack, the only way to get an instant image from a 35mm camera was to slap on the ungainly monster known as a Speed Magny…..

SpeedMagny

For those of you who spent any time in a physics class, you can imagine how the long optical path of that periscope-like device would suck up light…in this case, about about 5 stops worth…so a shutter speed of 1/250 second effectively became 1/8 second…not very useful at all. Marty had another idea…he invented a system that used a free-floating fiber optic lens to transfer the image from the camera film plane directly onto the Polaroid film plane…..

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I’ll always remember the day when I saw my first ProBack…and then the second, and the third…..and soon there was nobody who didn’t own one! To anybody not involved in the business, this probably seems like nothing, but overnight, Marty’s little invention had changed the way a generation of photographers took pictures! Here is the first two-on-one 35mm Fiber Optic Pro-Back Polaroid shot ever taken…..that’s Marty with one of his repair techs, Noah Schwartz…..

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It’s been a long, long time since I have seen Marty, but I’ll fondly remember him and how he would offer up a bit of grandfatherly advice or a few suggestions on how to solve a problem…..then he’d shoo me away from the counter ‘cuz there were other customers waiting!