Twenty years ago I was hired for private photo lessons by an amazingly great businessman by the name of Simon Jacob. We spent 3 days photographing all around Manhattan, Queens and New Jersey. At the time I was shooting Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64 and Tri-X. Simon had a digital camera. At the end of our photo safari he convinced me to try digital. Twelve months later, I was 100% digital. I owe it all to Simon Jacob who by the way, turned into a very close friend as well and what I consider family.
Why am I telling you this now? I just came across some photos that are 40 plus years old taken on negative color material. I rarely shoot color negative but this was a special assignment as I was working on assignment with TIME Magazine and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED photographing Captain Frank Mundus capturing the world largest fish caught on Rod & Reel. It was a 3,427 lb. Great White Shark. It was 0 dark 30 when we came into Montauk. I jumped onto another boat so I could make the photo of the Captain, his boat the Cricket II, and the White Shark. While scanning the negatives, it dawned on me what if I had a digital camera back then? Really pretty amazing!
I don’t know who said it, but somebody said I’d rather be lucky than good. In a perfect world, I think we’d all like to be good and lucky. I don’t know how good I am but I’ll tell you I’m damn lucky!
I had a client from Paris who needed photographs, which forced me to look into our archives from over the last 30 years. Lots of evenings staying up until 4 AM in the morning. Once you start doing that, it’s like scratching or eating potato chips, you can’t stop. While doing this research I stumbled across some old black and white photos and decided to take the old and new ones and talk about them. Most people believe there are about 6 or 7 shades of gray in black and white. This is not true according to Minor White. Potentially there could be 156 shades of grey (& the computer says 256 shades of grey). Your job as a photographer is to get as many shades of grey in a photograph as you can to generate a great print.
Another mentor of mine, Gene Smith, one of the greatest printers of all time, let me know, that in no uncertain terms, I did not have the skills it took to be a great printer and I sure as hell wasn’t going to disagree with Gene Smith! According to him you should always work with a #2 negative and print on a # 2 sheet of photographic paper. Today, now that we have gone digital, the options are off the wall! A mediocre printer like myself is able to generate some pretty neat stuff. I don’t know if it’s my talent or just these great computer programs. Good or lucky? What the hell, I’ll take a little of each.
For Gods sake, pick up your camera and go out and make some great photos. There’s a whole world out there. It doesn’t cost anything to make a great photo.
To all the ships at sea, the following will be a chapter in my new book. And as far as a title for this chapter, the working title is Richard Drew Super Star. Subtitle; a great talent with a very small ego. In 1976, I had the pleasure of working as a pool photographer for the Canadian Olympic Association. One evening I was assigned to shoot a soccer game (never shot soccer in my life). It was extremely dark and extremely cold of the middle fo the summer, and torrential rain, and I met Associated Press photographer Richard Drew. It appeared we were the only two photographers shooting this soccer match (or maybe it’s just my memory). The first indication you’re with someone with great talent and a great attitude is Richard brings a new meaning to laid back. He’s calm, he’s cool, never breaks a sweat, and appears to be 100% in control all the time. I immediately liked him. He was a direct contradiction to some of the super stars at the Olympic Games who let you know that they’re shit doesn’t stink. And they’re the best of the best so get the hell out of my way peon. If I’m not mistaken Richard Richard suggested that we shoot in the area sheltered by the unfinished oval stadium opening, rather than in the rain on the pitch while shooting this soccer game. The other thing I learned about Richard that night was that he was a minimalistic shooter. No five cameras and five lenses with two assistants, two cameras, two lenses, and the end product (photograph) was always on the money, it always told a story, it was honest, it was sincere, and it put the viewer at that soccer game that night. That’s my first run-in with Richard Drew, remember its 1976. Just for the record, in those days we were limited to 36 exposures, extremely slow motor drives, no auto focus, many of the hot shots would shoot a zillion frames looking for that one photo. Drew, couple of rolls of film, again a minimalistic shooter, but he always got the photograph.
I can’t write this chapter without mentioning another great photographer. And a super star. And yes, great talent and a small ego. Bill Eppridge. Bill was not only a friend of mine, he also one of my heroes. Extremely dynamic at the same time extremely laid back. Always in control, always calm, and always got the photo. In 1968 while Bill was working for “Life” magazine he made the iconic photograph of Bobby Kennedy as he lay on the kitchen floor taking his last breath. I’m going to regress for a moment, I’ve heard a lot of general comments, you’ve gotta be in the right place at the right time. The old f-8 and be there. My guess is, if you took 100 photographers in that situation, there would be a large percentage of them that would freeze or lose it, or close their eyes. The last time I saw Bill was 2013 at his one man show in Connecticut, which was stunning, magnificent, and great. Unfortunately he passed away in November of 2013. While writing a blog on Bill I discovered that my dear friend Richard Drew not only was there at the Ambassador Hotel but he also made an iconic photo which at the time did not get the same amount of play as Bill’s photo did. I didn’t know this until 2013. Hell, it was only 45 years late. He was working for the Pasadena Independent Star-News then.
Oh my god, I’m all over the place.! On September 11, I was in the middle of a 7-mile run about a half a mile from my home. When an automobile pulled up and the gentleman said “ plane just hit the World Trade Center” I immediately thought of a single engine plane that made a mistake and ran into the World Trade Center. By the time I got home I turned on CBS in time to see the second plane hit. It was pretty obvious this was a terrorist attack. I looked into my studio and my camera bag was packed, I took a two-minute shower, got dressed , walked over to the bag, looked back at the TV, and made a decision. By the time I drove 74 miles I wasn’t going to get anywhere close to the World Trade Center. WE all my brothers and sisters, lost 3,000 people that day. One of which was an extremely good friend of mine, and another who I spent several days with diving. Both were firefighters for the NYFD. At the time, Terry Farrell and Douglas Miller. A few days after September 11, I realized that my friend Richard Drew was there and he made some amazing photos, but that’s all I knew. Why? Because Richard never blows his own horn, he never waves a flag to tell you how great he is. That’s where the amazing talent is only helped by his small ego.
Yesterday, I was in an extremely bad mood. As a matter of fact, I was in a shitty mood. I normally wait until 6 o’clock to have a cocktail but I decided to make a very strong gin and tonic at 4:30 and I scrolled on the TV. Something caught my eye called the “Falling Man”. I had no idea what it was about. I hit the button, I sat back, took a sip on my drink, and there was Richard Drew and one of the most amazing photos that I have never ever seen. It actually took my breath away. I put the drink down and I was just blown away by the image. I’m not a big email guy and it was a Sunday, I sent an email to Richard and said “love you, Joe D”. I got an email back from his lovely wife Molly wanting to know what it was all about. I said I’ll tell you tomorrow. Hey Molly, it’s now tomorrow. Richard Drew is a great husband, a great father, a great photographer, and one of the kindest beautiful people I’ve ever met. Did I mention He won the Pulitzer Prize for another photo? The only thing small about Mr Drew is small ego, super laid back. We all should go to school by Mr Drew and maybe we will turn out to be better people and better photographers. Joe DiMaggio.
As a young man, I really liked to sketch and paint. Remember John Gnagy – If you can draw a straight line you can paint – NOT! MY painting skills or lack of, always bothered me. When I showed my portfolio to master artist Will Barnet, he looked closely and slowly and at the end he said, “Joe you’re not a photographer, you’re a painter.” I think I will remember what he said on my deathbed.
While visiting and working on my film on artist Dennis Wheeler (a work in progress), in a very positive way, Dennis tore some of my work apart and showed me how to fix it. Talk about an epiphany! That’s why he’s is in the permanent collection of MOMA! Maybe I will look back on the Covid-19 Virus as the excuse I needed to get back into painting. I’m always looking for the bright side. On another note, Dick Blick has been out of acrylic paint for the last 3 months and it seems like I’m not the only one, with this idea.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (not one of my favorite artists) just sold a painting for 110 million dollars which was the highest ever paid for an American artist. Hell, he couldn’t draw a straight line! Unfortunately, he also couldn’t cash the check because he died from a drug overdose at age 27.
Approximately 8 weeks after December 7th 1941. My father Joe DiMaggio hit the jackpot of all jackpots. He was the first man drafted for World War II. Lucky son of a bitch!
Master Sergeant waist gunner on the B-17 Army Air force. Two for the price of one. He came home worked 3-4 jobs a day while attending NYU and got the first of his 4 degrees. I was 4 1/2 years old and went to his graduation ( what bullshit – I’m only 20 years old now.) I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for my mother and my father I would have been dead a long time ago. Thank Mom. Dad Happy Father’s Day!
In the past 5 months there has been so much bad news. The loss of friends, finances, work. However in the last week a lot has turned around. One of my private students recommended me to do a program. Thanks Rob. Like everything in my career I take things quite seriously. No big deal, knock out a program in an hour just get it done. one hour turns into 5 then urns into 10. Then I asked JoAnne to give me a hand and grudgingly helped me and of course doing a great job. After half a century of lectures of TV shows, radio shows, Newspapers, magazines, over 500 Covers I still get those butterflies when I have to do a program. I know about Murphy.
I called a friend in Israel on basic execution with Zoom, then I called another friend from a university. We did a dry run and it was great. With a few modifications it was even better. Dry run with the President of the organization it was great. Had a problem with something during the program and I got a little flustered. JoAnne jumped in. Tough to start like that. Lost my virginity with Zoom. All in all it turned out to be fun. Questions were great as well as the people. Doesn’t get better than that. Not about money, prestige or ego all about passing along what my mentors were kind enough to give me. Thanks to them all. We don’t do this alone. If that was the Sunday here comes the cherry. Both JoAnne and I have 3 days of a major assignment. Of course it’s over the 4th of July weekend. A combination of not only stills but a serious 4 videos. Major music, staging and lighting. I’m going to presume we’ll have some great art at the end of 3 days. Hell it’s about time. I will have a permanent smile on my face until July 6. Then I can sit back have a Margarita and enjoy life. The photos in this blog have No Rhyme of Reason – Why the Hell not? Remember to make some great photos today. It’s free and worth an awful lot.
A few highlights
From Bill Yeah! FUJI!
How many cameras did you destroy.
Thanks Joe! your images are amazing! Such a huge part of history. Thank you so much for sharing your stories!
What a great presentation! Iconic images! Thank you so much!
Great presentation Thank You!
Yeah, I’m also a diver!
Wonderful presentation. Enjoyed it
Great presentation. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing great new ideas to use.
Awesome presentation.! Thank you!
Great presentation. Great fun.
You can still do it!
Good ideas! I love “when you see something take it!”
Thank you Mr. DiMaggio for sharing your knowledge with us. Especially enjoyed the racing shots. I followed them back in the day and Mario Andretti was my favorite! I recognized the jargon and will use your advice to improve my shots.
“Recalling His Adventures as a Working Photographer from the 60’s to present day. The book describes Joe’s career working for publications such as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, TIME MAGAZINE, HBO, rapidly followed by a brilliant career in Corporate and Advertising. It’s about how photography has evolved over the years.” FILL THE FRAME goes into detail about the many people Joe has photographed – celebrities, sports figures as well as so many others, his experiences working with them and the stories behind the photographs.Book is $25 plus $5 shipping. You can pay directly by check, or by paypal.Click here to purchase the book on paypal –https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=76BHV2D849WAS
Over the years we’ve had some wonderful assistants, interns and studio managers. Three of them have gone on to great careers and have traveled around the world. They’ve made an amazing amount of great photos and have generated some very serious income. Both JoAnne and I are very proud of that.
Jon Mecca started with us as an intern from a local university. When he graduated, I suggest he continue with his schooling. He wound up taking my advice as well as his parents advice. During that period of time he continued to work with us. About a year ago he relocated to Manhattan which obviously was a great idea. Whether anybody likes it or not, NYC is the capital of photography, art, music, food and the list goes on. Because of his schedule we were able to work together on Skype. It’s all good! He relocated to Astoria and I’m still trying to help him as much as I possibly can. About a week ago, he informed me he was extremely sick for about 3 weeks and was finally checked for the COVID-19 Virus. During that period of time he generated several short films that were quite good. He appears to be a 100% and is now back at work. I’m going to take an educated guess he will be kicking ass and taking names. Mecca’s in the process of editing a not so short film on the blues player Bobby Kyle – LAST CALL FOR THE BLUES.
In 1971, I flew to San Fransisco for a business trip and met Mike Philips. Mike worked for Nikon USA, or EPOI which was Nppon Kogaku, Tokyo. Mike was a tech rep and a photographer. In a matter of hours we became friends. It was like two ships meeting at night. Mike, was a great photographer – extremely minimalistic. Back in the day, when photographers carried three or four cameras, Mike carried one camera, one lens, and two rolls of film; and generated awesome images. In those days, I found myself in San Fransisco at least 4 times a year and Mike would come to New York about as many times.
One day, Mike came to me with a concept for a book called Forbidden Fantasies. It was a book he wanted to do on Halloween in San Fransisco, when almost the whole gay community, dresses up in drag for the occasion. Mike’s idea was to find an empty gas station and set up 3 different backgrounds, 3 different sets of studio lights, and have 3 photographer’s views of that particular day. I agreed to be one of the photographers. The first year there was a cancellation, the following year I was in Greece for 2 months. Unfortunately, I never became part of this project.
When you became friends with Mike, you automatically became friends with Mark Joseph, a great writer and former roommate of Mike’s from UC Davis College. Mark wrote to To Kill the Potemkin, Deadline Y2K, Typhoon, The Wild Card, Overwhelming Pursuit, Mexico Benti Uno, and his most recent book Monte Rio – not necessarily in that order. The other friend of Mike’s was Gary Nichamin, also a roommate to Mike and Mark. Three very talented and amazing friends that have always been very special to me. Mike was best man at my wedding and was my son’s Godfather. I loved him and I still do. Sadly he passed away at a very young age. For whatever reason and to this day, I really don’t know why, our paths went in different directions. I found what happened to our relationship confusing and upsetting for a long time. I never chose for this to happen – it just did. I regret not writing a chapter about Mike in my book Fill the Frame I just didn’t know how to handle my feelings, let alone write about what happened between us.
I was just interviewed by Martin Morris for the international publication ART & MUSEUM Magazine in the UK We talked about art, photography, and business. Then it came down to, how we were dealing with the pandemic Corvid-19. Under normal circumstances and most of the time, I tend to speak very quickly, and don’t give it deep thought. With this particular question there was a long hesitation on my part. I realized everything I’ve done in in the last ten years prepared me for how to fight the virus. When you are a freelance photographer, art director, cinematographer, your life is filled with what people call hills and valleys. If you’re fortunate enough you have very high hills and occasionally some big mountains. It’s not uncommon 1-2 months later you get a low and you’re in the Dead Sea. What you learn is how to deal with what is happening in your life, including your friendships, business, marriage, art etc. You either learn to deal or break out your Brooks Brothers suit and go out and get a 9-5, which in reality, a 5-9 job if done properly. I know about this because I spent 120 days as director of photography for SPORTS INC. I was ecstatic when those 120 days were over. In reality, nothing has really changed in our lives, other than our overall income has dropped 80%. Talk about a valley!
Now for the good news – you could eat off our studio floor, our VIP suite is in perfect condition, and our basement, for the first time in years, can be navigated. Also, a combination of JoAnne’s work and my work has been reinventoried, cleaned, and in some cases scanned. With any luck at all I’ll have a banner crop of tomatoes, basil, snap peas, tomatillos, jalapeños, and eggplants. All started from seed. My father’s got to be rolling over in his grave! I’ve also taken the opportunity to revisit my Art Nouveau lamps which JoAnne loves. See attached photos and YES, THEY ARE FOR SALE! Please Support the Arts!) I’ve made a few gifts for JoAnne for anniversaries, birthdays etc. Also I’m in the process of finalizing 40 photos that will be part of the gallery permanent collection at Sloan Kettering with a very specific theme which I will not visit at this time. I’d be jerking you around if I did not tell you that my psycho kitty Mia (just kidding) has been photographed just a few times and our 15 year old puppy Ace has had more than a few extra frames shot on him.
In the last 7 years with malice of forethought, I’ve not photographed any time/motion photos. For whatever reason I made a few frames the other day. Please check out my 30 second video on my You Tube channel on FIGHT THE VIRUS https://youtu.be/soZRLe-cLS0. Please subscribe to the channel and share with friends. Oops… almost forgot to mention that I had a 10 foot distance meeting with Dennis Wheeler and he turned me onto some of his new projects and encouraged me to play with some new art forms. Last but not least, I just cancelled my last 2 orders on the Fuji X-T4’s they are going to have to wait till December(ish.) Hope to see you on the road again… Lastly, looking forward to doing a Zoom lecture for Berks Photo Society in June.