Both JoAnne and I, have some really wonderful friends such as Steve & Mary. They invited us for a lovely Barbecue last week. We had met Steve’s mom the year before and I was thoroughly taken with her. Her name is Nobuko. She happened to be visiting again and I sat across from her. As I was talking to her a tiny bit of light lit up her face like she was an angel. I absolutely had to photograph her.
When we left I kissed her and invited her to come to our studio for an informal portrait session. She was gracious enough to come. I spent the morning redoing the studio specifically for her. My Japanese isn’t what it used to be but I greeted her with Ohayo gozaimasu. She was very happy. I had her sit down and we made some small talk. Nobuko is in amazing health and her eyes are the eyes of a 20 year old. They are bright, clear and they sparkle. It doesn’t get better than that. I am not a conventional portrait photographer. When I find someone this beautiful I have to make the photograph. Nobuko did all the work and I recorded her presence.
Every once in a while I need to be hit in the head by a 2×4. You know it’s good to have a friend that tells you the truth. Recently I’ve had several friends tell me my blog is a little on the down side. Unfortunately, they are right. Obviously I don’t set out to do this. So, I’m going to make some serious changes not only in my attitude but in the way I look at things.
Why did I want to become a photographer? Simple answer – I wanted to communicate with my fellow man visually and have the ability to possibly change the world with my photography. Bull shit! I wanted to have fun, meet women, sleep till one in the afternoon, get up and drink cappuccino and talk to people about things, I know absolutely nothing about! Hell, did you see Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up?
It’s all about apprenticeship, working extremely hard on your craft, being passionate about everything you do and your ability to get from point A to B under every condition there is. To become truly successful you have to put the same amount of effort in as if you were going to become a doctor, lawyer or architect. It’s hard work. So I’ve been on vacation every day 24/7 for very long time
I’d like to share some photos that I’ve been neglectful about showing you in the past. I won’t get involved in why I have not been blogging but it’s time to get off my ass, be more upbeat and that’s what I’m going to do.
I have to do a shout out to my friend Sam who’s been one serious pain in the ass. Thank you Sam.
In 1969, a new singing group was performing at a Long Island ice skating rink, a trio, actually – Peter, Paul and Mary. I phoned the local newspaper and asked for a press credential. I was turned down. I called another paper; same story. Then I called a weekly, uh, newspaper, containing mostly supermarket coupons, and they said they’d love to give me a credential — if they had any. Make one up, I was told, which I did, subsequently proceeding to bluff my way into the concert. I had a Mamiya C220 camera by then, and an ancient, beat up Leica 3-C. I loaded both with Tri-X black and white film, and as show time approached I managed to work my way onto one wing of the stage. I had loved Peter, Paul and Mary from the start. Mary Travers was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. That hair, those eyes . . . and her voice was from heaven. The moments approaching her opening note were counting down, and I was trembling. Then, during the sound check, Mary and her partners walked by, and she said, “Who the fuck is doing the sound here? It sounds like shit.” I think I grew up at that moment. I’d heard those words before, just not from a goddess. Looking back, my photos of the concert were of average quality, except for one shot of Mary, alone on a stool. I sent her a copy. Several years later, during one of her TV interviews, there it was, on the sofa behind her head. More than 40 years have passed since then, and I’ve never stopped looking for the negatives.
Many of you know that I set out to do a 10 minute video on boxing at Gleason’s Gym about 10-12 years ago. The concept was JoAnne ringside talking about her experiences photographing boxing as a woman, in a man’s sport with a woman’s viewpoint, in at the time a male photographic oriented business.
Well that day turned into the beginning of a long film called In This Corner and it’s been an on-going project ever since. It’s out of pure passion and love for the sport (you also have to know, that I have a love hate relationship with boxing as there are many bad sides of boxing.) Every once in a while you’ll come across a few boxers who make it but the majority of these boxers never actually get from point A to point B. I had an opportunity to photograph the Terrance Crawford vs. Felix Diaz fight two weeks ago. I made a decision to give up my credentials for the the fight after driving thirteen hours to North Carolina to photograph one of the brightest young boxers by the name of Khalid, one of the protagonists in my film. We worked a 14 hour day and the last fight was supposed to go off at 10 PM but actually started at 12:30AM. We started at 10 in the morning, so by that time, we were seriously dragging ass and one of the corner workers – in Mr. so-and-so’s corner took objections to our photography position after shooting what 17 fights? I made a decision that if you have nothing else to do but give us a hard time after just trying to do our job, we’re leaving so we left. You know what happened? They got no national exposure because when the digital images were turned into Zuma Press there were no photos of their number one fighter so no publicity. Oh well… I guess that’s the way it goes….
Pretty sure most of you read Joseph Heller’s book CATCH-22. Well today I had a Catch-28! Called Amazon and explained my name was spelled wrong in my Amazon book listing and the publisher’s name was wrong. They said no problem…please hold. I was on hold for four minutes and decided I should water my basil…which I did…still on hold. With that Peter Poremba, the CEO of Dynalite called and I abruptly told him, I’d call him back. Seven minutes into my hold, Al Stegmeyer from Upstrap called. I also blew him off. Their music was starting to drive me crazy so I decided to go brush my teeth. Still waiting… I gargled. We are now 12 minutes into the hold and I figured well… I’m in the bathroom…. Now 15 minutes into it, I decided to take a quick shower. I quickly, jumped out of the tub and wrapped a towel around me and my friend Sam Garcia called. Also blew him off and said I’d get back. Went outside, still waiting, I watered my tomatoes, and went back into the studio. With that JoAnne asked me where I had been? I simply said I’ve been on hold. Twenty four minutes later, the lovely lady told me there was nothing they could do about it and to call the Publisher and tell them to make the changes. She said it would probably take till July to implement them. The first line in my new book FILL THE FRAME is six months ago, I was 20 years old. That’s how fast life is…light speed plus. Time is like gold – more valuable than material things.
2017 has not been the greatest year for many of my friends. It’s been a great year for me but not so good for them! My dear friend Don Nelson, one of the most powerful, beautiful human beings, with a awesome sense of humor has gone to the great darkroom in the sky, making a short detour to Grandfather mountain where he helped thousands of photographers over the years. He’s joined his beautiful wife Christine , and they are now traveling together into infinity. A quick story about Don, back in the 80’s it was not uncommon for him to pop in and out of the White House. One day he popped in giving the press secretary Larry Speakes an acorn asking him to give it to the old man. Larry said, it just an acorn. Don told him to crack it on the desktop (in those days desktops were made out of oak not glass.) He cracked it and out popped a condom. He laughed and said the old man is on his way to Andrew’s and inquired how many more he had. Don gave him maybe 6 or 7. Don headed back to Virginia & maybe thirty minutes later he got a phone call from Air force One. In those days car phones looked like house phones. A woman asked if he’d accept a call from the President of the United States. Of course Don said yes. Ronald Reagon got on the line laughing so hard and asked Don if he could get him a couple dozen so he could send them out to his friends? Don I loved you then and I love you now. I will come visit you at Grandfather Mountain. Live, Love, Laugh and Be Happy. Life is great!
Anybody who knows me knows I’ve used the expression “I am one of the luckiest people in the world.” One reason for that is I’ve met so many great people over the years. My friend Simon Jacob is one of the most important. Simon has taken us into his family. Simon and all the Jacob family was extremely blessed to have Doreen Jacob as the Matriarch of their tribe. She’s was beautiful on the outside as well as so beautiful on in the inside. Doreen was a very warm, caring strong, and spiritual woman that lit up the room when she entered it.
We will always hold beautiful thoughts of her in our hearts. When she opened up the doors to her home to us, she helped us to understand more about the true meaning of family and friendship. I know Doreen’s soul will live within all of us. She has just moved to a higher place and one day we hope to meet her again. We thank her for her lessons. Both JoAnne and I were truly blessed to know her in this life.
A friend, Jim Morton Sr., a really good photographer did this portrait and I would like to share it.
This is what Jim wrote me when he sent it along. “I was asked to photograph our local Fire Department. They needed head shots for their department folders and a group Image of all current firemen and the Mayor along with the chaplain of the Department.
After doing the formal portraits I asked if anyone would like to do some pictures with their fallout gear on in the engine bays. All of the firemen said they would like to do it so it was time to have some fun. I used the Dynalite Baja B4 with the Dynalite 47 inch Grand soft box. I asked Captain Eric Pearson to sit on the front bumper of the new department Pumper. When looking through my viewfinder I noticed his reflection in the grill, and asked him move forward about 3-4 inched so his reflection would be seen completely. I never told him why I wanted him to move because I wanted to surprise him when the image was printed.
This was not the original image I had in mind but once I saw it, I knew it was the shot.”
As I’ve told you many times, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. 95% of all my friends are artists, photographers, blues and jazzmen, writers, poets, sculptors, boxers, and occasionally a copyright attorney. I’ve had a very long friendship with Sam Garcia. As a matter of fact, it goes back six decades. Well, we know that’s impossible because I’m only 29 years old… so obviously, I’ve misspoken. Sam, a very fine photographer, sometimes tends to continuously remind me of things. Maybe he feels that he has a responsibility to me. Hell, maybe that’s a good thing. The photo in the blog is a candid shot of Jay Maisel, copy written by Sam Garcia. I’m pretty sure that everybody who reads this blog knows who Jay is- one of the finest photographers in the last six or seven decades. And today, he’s 39 years old. Well Jay, wishing you one hell of a great birthday. Give Sam a hug and a squeeze for me.
I’d like to share a story. My son Dylan came home from school from 4th grade class with a unusual request. He asked that I get Muhammad Ali to call all the kids in his class. I told him that would not be easy. He said please, “I’d like you to do this.” I called my good friend Bert Sugar – “Mr. Boxing” and the “Bertster” tried to reach out to Ali, but was unable to connect. He said, “Joe on a conference call we will phone Howard Bingham” (Ali’s photographer.) I had met Howard a few times but we were not close friends. We spoke to Howard and he said he’d see what he could do. He asked me, what time and on what phone number?” I told him approximately 1:05 on Thursday afternoon & gave him the number. I figured there was a very slim chance of this happening. I was told the call went through the speakers and sure enough It was Muhammad Ali talking to all the kids in Dylan’s grade class.
There are very few people and this goes for Bert Sugar, Howard Bingham and Muhammad Ali that would extend themselves for a bunch of kids. I’m blessed knowing people like this. I might add, it is mainly due to people I’ve met through photography. Bert Sugar died on my birthday a few years ago, Muhammad Ali died this year and now Howard Bingham died December 15 this year. I casually mentioned this story to my friend Sam Garcia and he insisted I do a blog on Howard, which I was going to do anyway. He said you can tell your people from me, that Howard was one of the sweetest most self effacing people he had ever met. He always remembered everyones’ name, was a genuinely sweet individual, and one hell of a great photographer.
We’ll have a 10 count tonight for Howard. Attached you will find a short video I did in Cuba a few weeks ago at Kid Chocolate Gym. https://vimeo.com/193916645