Photographer and Nice Guy Shelly Katz

Photographer Shelly Katz

To All the Ships at Sea,

Approximately 4 months ago, my friend Sam called me and told me that an old friend Shelly Katz was not feeling well.  I called Shelly and we spoke for about a half hour. I sent him several photos of the Apollo Soyuz launch with all the guys from TIME Magazine.  I followed up with a couple more photos and wished him a Happy Birthday.  Unfortunately, last Friday Shelly went to the Darkroom in the Sky or actually maybe it’s a the Lightroom in the Sky!  Just for the record both JoAnne and I had the utmost respect for Shelly as a very fine photographer. Shelly, also had something else going for him,  everybody loved him.  In a profession that is ego driven Shelly had the goods and treated everybody equally.  At a time when male photographers did not give credence to female photographers he did.  Below is a beautiful letter from  long time good friend Sam Garcia.  Who every said Sam was a hard ass?  Was it me?  Maybe I was wrong.

“I hadn’t talked to Shelly in a couple of years.

It just goes like that sometimes, even when you like someone.

You can’t beat yourself up about it, but you’re going to a little bit anyway.
Couple of months ago a friend had a photo/home accident—they came back from a trip to find a pipe had burst directly over where they stored some of their work in their garage. Images and negatives literally sitting in water.
They called me; I told them what I thought was the best course of action to save/retrieve what was salvageable.
Then, because I don’t know know nearly enough about everything as I want to, I decided to double check what I’d told her by talking to another shooter with deep knowledge about a lot of stuff in the industry.
My first thought was Shelly.
And I was irritated to realize I didn’t have his number at hand it had been so long.
Called a mutual friend who gave it to me.
I called the number, said, basically,  “Hey, Shelly!, want to talk to you more, but will call you back because I’ve got a photo-emergency you might be able to help me with.”
Told him what I knew. What I’d suggested. He offered a couple of additional things.
I drove out and spent the afternoon trying to help my distraught friend save her memories.
(mixed results, but less overall disaster than she had feared.)
In one of the FEW responsible adult/mature moments of my Life, I called Shelly back in a couple of days to thank him for the help. Also, to actually talk about how he’d been, and swap those fill-in-the-blank stories you do with someone when you haven’t kept in touch as often as you’d have liked.
I got the sense he was under the weather health wise. But he was talking about his upcoming 75th birthday, and how well his son was doing, and we both bitched about the state of the industry we both liked probably more than it liked us.
Shelly’s background was certainly professional. Worked under the Time-Life umbrella for a few decades. Was represented in it’s glory days by the late great Black Star agency.
I had met him for the first time when I was traveling with the Nikon School.
We were both in the ‘Day In The Life’ book projects family as photographers.
That was back in…, September…?
I’m sitting at the table this morning, finishing up Xmas cards and thinking about lunch. I look over at one of the multitudinous piles of notes on various scraps of paper and see the one I’d scrawled Shelly’s name and number on.
I hadn’t wished him a happy 75th birthday.
I’d frankly, simply forgotten.
But I picked up the phone to see how he was doing pre-holiday.
But his son, Andrew answered the phone.
It’s not a genius thing to catch that tone in a voice which has only said ‘hello’
Shelly had died Friday.
I stumbled through my condolences as one does in that terrible moment, but you keep moving forward even when you’re uncomfortable because it’s not about you, and even if his son is a grown man, he just lost his dad.
I told him what I knew to be true–Shelly was one of the nicer guys I’d met in the industry over the years.
He was smart, and funny, and friendly, and really liked the business, even on those days when it beat him up a bit.
I kept it short, but as bad as I am at this stuff I stayed on, I hope, long enough to let him know other people liked and respected his dad, and the World was going to be a little less kind, a little less fun without Shelly in it.
His son asked me if I would mind letting people know.
So this is me doing that.
Right now he’s at Shelly’s home and answering that phone, but he also asked me to pass along his number if anyone wants to call.
Shelly’s number (in Texas)  972-247-0700
his son Andrew’s number, if you don’t get him at the above: 214-458-4858
I feel bad. I could’a, would’a, should’ a…fill in the blanks.
So I’ll try and do better. I think Shelly would accept that as the only apology worth giving.
Over the years I have come to believe the single worst lie you have heard via literature, and oft quoted, and oft repeated is the famous, ‘no man is an island‘.
It’s simply wrong.
Every single person is an island, and can slip away, slip beneath even calm waters in a moment, in a heartbeat.
But I do agree with John Donne a bit further into that piece, that, “Any man’s death diminishes me.”
I should have called him far more recently, and without the excuse to pick his brain, simply because I liked him. And I feel badly. And I’ll try and do better.
And the best thing I can offer Shelly’s spirit is with any luck you’re thinking of some ‘island’ you’ve been out of touch with, and maybe you’ll call them or write them.”  – Sam Garcia

*Article in the New York Times by John Camera Section on Shelly Katz by John Durniak (freelance writer, editor and photography consultant.)


A signed copy of Joe’s Book FILL THE FRAME is $20 plus $4 shipping 

January 18th: Somebody’s Birthday

© Sam Garcia

To all the ships at sea,

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.

RIP Photographer Howard Bingham by Joe DiMaggio

To All the Ships at Sea,

© Kenneth Lambert, AP

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.

© Joe DiMaggio All Rights Reserved

© Joe DiMaggio

Sam by © Sam Garcia


Ernst Haas: A True Pioneer


© Ernst Haas

To all the ships at sea,

It’s Monday. You know what Monday is. When you look at Monday in Webster’s unabashed dictionary, you find out that everything that can go wrong will go wrong! I just completed a magnificent blog on the life and times of Ernst Haas, who relocated to the darkroom in the sky thirty years ago in September. Ernst truly motivated me and helped me find my voice. I genuinely believe whether you’re a photographer, a painter, a musician, a baseball player, or a writer, you are molded by all of your predecessors. Whether you know it or not, they affect what you do and how you do it. W. Eugene Smith taught me the power of black and white and what a true picture story is. John Zimmerman taught me, “Experiment. There are new photos out there, you have to find them and record them.” John Dominis taught me, “Less is more. You don’t have to machine gun whatever you are photographing to make a great photograph.” (John also told me, “If you ever use a 15mm lens on an assignment again, you’ll hear the words, ‘You’ll never work for this magazine again.'” – he was referring to Sports Illustrated.) I had the pleasure of working with all of these great photographers, and also assisting Smith. Which brings me to Ernst Haas, whom unfortunately I never had the pleasure of meeting. Early in my career his work thoroughly impressed me. He taught me that there are shutter speeds other than 1/1000 of a second and there are different ways of approaching action and motion photography. My friend Sam Garcia reminded me that the thirtieth anniversary of Ernst’s death was this past month. Here are a few words from Sam Garcia and Jay Maisel on the life and times of Ernst Haas. I’m working with a young photographer and decided to gift him a copy of The Creation by Ernst Haas in hopes that it would help him in his career.


“Sam Garcia

Sam Garcia was a Pro Markets Tech Rep for an international camera company for 37 years. Garcia has attended most major U.S. and international sporting events, including eight Olympics, and in cooperation with NASA has participated in training America’s space shuttle and International Space Station astronauts in the use of digital still camera equipment.

As a photographer, Sam worked on eight of the Day In The Life  book projects, including the New York Times bestseller A Day In The Life Of America  and the medically themed The Power To Heal. Assignments have taken him from the magnetic North Pole in the to the depths of a Spanish coal mine, with his work appearing in magazines as varied as Yankee, German GEO, Paris Match, and college textbooks. Garcia is an author and lecturer on photographic subjects, is qualified as an expert witness in photography at the federal-court level, and has participated in photo programs with most major educational facilities in the U.S. and locations as far afield as Moscow University.
One day I paid $35 for a photography book.

You need to put that money in perspective. I was living in a $15-a-week room in mid-town Los Angeles in the early 1970s. I had a $60-a week-job, and my pay went directly for rent, bus fare, and food. My entertainment was the Los Angeles County Art Museum free exhibits. I’d usually save the bus fare and walk the 30 minutes or so from my place.

And then one day I spent two weeks rent for a book.

I had looked through it the previous weekend and discovered what I thought were some of the most beautiful color photographs I’d ever seen, and I wanted to own it. The book, as you have probably guessed, was The Creation  by Ernst Haas.

It’s not true Haas invented color photography; it just seems no one really noticed it until his moody, evocative essays on New York, and later, Venice, appeared in LIFE magazine in the 1950s. Suddenly color was as thought provoking as black and white. Maybe better. Real, but ignored until Haas rubbed our eyes in it. Not the postcard colors of yellow vs. red vs. green vs. blue. Haas’ color crept out of Venetian shadows and stole through morning fog. Color that danced off the bright-work of Manhattan buildings in late afternoon. Color that delineated shape, and caressed texture, and gave substance to mood. Color so saturated you wanted to turn the page over to see if it had soaked through. His was color from the best dreams and memories.

I suppose I convinced myself buying The Creation  was an educational investment. I’d feast on the photographs and then dutifully glean the technical information from the pages in the back so I’d know exactly which lens and film to use to help me become a great photographer. It was an education, just not the one I’d expected. I learned about emotion, and feeling, and that somehow there was alchemy in the world that allowed its transmutation into a color photograph. Sure, I learned his tools, the cameras, and Kodachrome. But anybody can buy a magician’s top hat. It’s getting the rabbit out of it that’s hard to do.

Jump forward about 15 years, and to my own surprise I did in fact manage to move into, and along within, the photo business. And that journey had taken me across country to New York, where I had managed to become friends with several of the photographers, including Ernst, whose work I’d admired and envied those many years ago when I was trying to find a path forward.

The Creation  was at that point a photographic book icon of sorts. It set sales records and redefined the nature of photography in the arts, while also earning impressive credits for the quality of the printing. It was a defining work, and in the late 1980s was rewarded for that success by having a new, revised version reprinted to the same level of quality as the first edition.

One afternoon in May of 1986, I was visiting Ernst in his New York City apartment. We were doing that casual catching up that you do with friends when you haven’t seen them in a while. One of us mentioned the new printing, and I remember congratulating him on the accomplishment. Ernst rather suddenly sprang up from his seat, walked to a close bookshelf, and pulled out a copy of the new Creation. He then, while continuing to talk, sat back down, opened the book to one of the first pages, and started to sign it for me. I felt guilty. Had I been talking about the new printing in a way that seemed like I was asking for a copy? I would be horrified if that was the case. It’s simply not something I would ever do.

“Ernst, you don’t have to do that,” I said, probably a bit too forcefully. “You know I have a copy of the first edition,” I reminded him.

He looked at me slightly sideways, and asked in a clearly mock-hurt voice, “You don’t want it…?”

Of course I took it. I may have my ethical standards, but I’m not stupid.

Ernst knew I was a genuine fan of his work, and it was, I realized, a simply spontaneous gesture of generosity.

A bit later that summer, in August, I had one of the few great ideas I’ve ever had in my life. I’d been to the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Vienna, 1900,” which featured Vienna’s designs, the city buildings, private homes, the city infrastructure, the style of that era, and additionally, in a connected exhibit space, a couple of its well known artists, Egon Schiele, and a personal favorite, Gustav Klimt.

I was so delighted by the exhibition that I wanted immediately to share it, so I invited Ernst, who was born in Vienna, and mutual friend Jay Maisel to go back with me. (I saw echoes of Ernst’s passion and elegance of vision in the paintings of Klimt particularly. I wanted to return, if only in a small way, some of the pleasure he had given me with his photographs over the years.)

I gleefully pointed out to Jay that this was not entirely selfless. “I think it will be great. We’ll walk around the museum with Ernst and let him tell us stories about Vienna from his childhood. What a great tour guide, with great art, I can’t wait.” And Jay agreed instantly to go — he knew a good plan when he heard one.

Ernst died of a stroke the day before we were to meet.

At the funeral home, when Jay saw me arrive, he came over, and the first thing he said to me was, “We should be at the museum.”

It was a nice service, and eventually there were eulogies, and articles, despair at the loss, discussions of his imagery, and his place in photographic history. But I’m not sure anyone has ever been able to express the uniqueness of a man whose art was the seamless blend of his life and his work.

I suggest, perhaps the longer lasting testament to his talent might even now be taking place in a bookstore, or a museum shop. I’d like to think somewhere out there another beauty-hungry kid is spending his or her rent money on The Creation  and dreaming their Kodachrome dreams.
Jay Maisel

After studying painting and graphic design at Cooper Union and Yale, Jay Maisel began his career in photography in 1954. While his portfolio includes the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Miles Davis, he is perhaps best known for capturing the light, color, and gesture found in every day life. This unique vision kept him busy for over 40 years shooting annual reports, magazine covers, jazz albums, advertising and more for an array of clients worldwide. Some of his commercial accomplishments include five Sports Illustrated swimsuit covers, the first two covers of New York Magazine, the cover of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue  (the best-selling jazz album of all time), twelve years of advertising with United Technologies, and a litany of awards from such organizations as ICP, ASMP, ADC, PPA, and Cooper Union.

Since he stopped taking on commercial work in the late ’90s, Jay has continued to focus on his personal work. He has developed a reputation as a giving and inspiring teacher as a result of extensive lecturing and photography workshops throughout the country. He also continues to sell prints, which can be found in private, corporate, and museum collections.
Ernst was very much of an enigma—friendly, warm, and giving, yet private and solitary. He was, to me, a mysterious entity. Full of love for all humanity, yet a little part of himself seemed impervious to examination or inspection. And that was all well and good.

I looked upon him with great awe. He was, out of all of us, the one guy who inspired.

I was tickled by his complete innocence on every business level. When I discussed him with other photographers, I found that they too were astonished with his work and amazed at his cavalier attitude toward business or money.  The phrase that kept coming up was, “Thank god that god takes care of Ernst.”

He would ask me business questions the way I would ask him photographic questions. At one point in a discussion about a difficult client, I asked him, “Well what does the paperwork say?” And god bless him, he looked at me with that sweet innocence he had and said, “Paperwork? I have no paperwork.” I was vexed and said, “You must have some paperwork, how else would you get paid?”

He said very seriously and quietly, “When I need money, I tell them and they send me a check.”

I asked a client of mine why they didn’t use Ernst more often. He said, “I’m afraid he might see a butterfly on the way to the assignment. That would be the end of my job.”

This was unfair because Ernst was very professional in his commercial work. One day we were talking about a job he just finished and I said, “Did you shoot stuff your way, for yourself?”

He didn’t actually do it, but I kind of felt him patting me on the head like a child, and he said, “No, I find if I do it my way, they always like their way better.”

The enigma of Ernst was that he was so damn good and you could never figure it out. What was the secret? How did he do it? I spoke to people who had gone to his lectures and taken his classes and they were unanimous in their praise.

“He’s wonderful.”

“He’s inspiring.”

“You’ll never be the same.”

But what did he say?

Nobody could be articulate and specific about what he said. So I went to his lecture up in Maine (I always fall asleep at lectures). I listened and dozed intermittently. Ernst noticed my closed eyes. (Did I mention that he had a wicked sense of humor?) He started directing questions at me, and my wife, L.A., would dig an elbow into my ribs and I’d wake up and start playing catch-up ball.

I totally regret that I never took a class with him, but I went to a number of his talks. To this day I’m inarticulate in remembering any specifics. But this I know—he was inspiring.

He never spoke of anything technical. He spoke of warmth and love and humanity. He was profound and poetic. He was completely honest and was modest.

He was the mentor I never had and like everyone else, I loved him.”



© Sam Garcia

© Sam Garcia

To all the ships at sea, there’s an old cliche : Honesty is the best policy. My doctor suggested that I get a hobby to try and minimize the stress and pressure in my life. What I’ve done is I have hired Sam Garcia on a six-month trial basis to lighten up my life. He is one of the very few people that can make me laugh. He sends the “snap-o’-the-day” to a very close circle of friends and photographers. Hmm… friends, or photographers? Not sure about that. I read this email this morning at 2:45 AM and at the end all I could think of was the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

“(this edition of snap-o’-the-day includes an overview of the picture setting, the site, some dawn-of-aviation info, and is kind of a walk through the woods. If you’re not interested there’s no reason you have to do anything other than look at this top photo, and then hit ‘Delete’ as usual. The rest is merely exposition… I won’t be offended if you skip it.)

3.L1020297 SOTD

I was a bit surprised myself last night when the light in the street corner of my apt started to look so interesting I had to make a shot or two.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been.

Ever since the hurricane two years ago damaged the outside roof and leaked into my apartment, requiring the entire wall surface to be replaced and repainted, the light over in that corner has really changed. (No, not this corner. Over there…, yeah, that one…)

Except for the fact most folk would be horrified by my dark cell of a ‘home’, I’d love to start bringing people in here to photograph, I so like the way light now affects the wall and that corner much of the day, but often most dramatically as the sunset light slices or slithers into the room, depending on the time of the year.

It’s kind of a North/East-ish exposure. I wish the window were twice as large, but it is what it is in this rattletrap place, carved out of the second floor of an over 130 year old building, which has always been a public bar or restaurant on the ground floor.

1. lower Main St., Port Washington, NY


(on my refrigerator door)


Not a bad snap of a nice Polish crystal vase I bought years ago and use to hold my change.

It’s really more a snapshot than it (I hope) looks.

I did place it there ‘artificially’, in order to make the shot. I was curious to see what the glass shape did with the curtained light.

But other than wiping off fingerprints (rather casually, I’m afraid…I’m not the obsessive compulsive studio control freak I’d like to be, so as to glean some of the big bucks those guys can make in one of the last genuinely lucrative aspects of the business) I really just took the picture.

So it really looked like that.

But, of course it didn’t at the same time.

I know what the meter ‘sees’ vs what I want to gather in the frame, so I adjusted accordingly. In this case, dialing in about two stops of underexposure. And the vase disappears into a design of light.

Although I made a couple of various snaps with three different cameras (the object originally sitting on the top of this box, which rests on the nightstand besides my mattress-on-a-metal-frame [I’d hardly call it a ‘bed’] which caught my attention was my glasses) this photograph of the vase was made on a Leica SL, with their 24-90mm zoom probably nearer the long end.

I was jammed into the wall, scrunching up pillows between my poor head and the wall surface. (That, unfortunately, being the angle where the light was nice.)

Photography rule: the light is virtually NEVER nice from an angle which allows shooting from a comfortable, seated position.

Let’s see…, what else? Oh, yeah…sorry…, obviously decided to shoot it in black and white. 

Starting with the Nikon Coolpix P7000, up to the D600, the D4, then the D800E, followed by the Leica Q, and now their professional mirrorless body, the wildly frustrating and excellent SL, I’ve shot more black and white in the last few years than in the first thirty years in photography, because NOW shooting black and white is a delight when you can PREVIEW it in the finder and then see the results on the screen. Nirvana for b&w folk. Many cameras shoot b&w, the ones I just listed seem to do a much better than average job for the way I like it to look. (I should add, I’m not as fond of Fuji’s black and white file as others seem to be. It’s EXCELLENT, but it’s just not for me. This is all REALLY personal preference stuff, not science. I like a sharper, more contrasting black to white, whereas some photogs like a longer tonal range. For me, the Nikon’s P7000 and D800E, and the Leica Q just nail it brilliantly.)

I don’t convert to b&w from a color file. Seeing it all later on a computer is useless to what I want to do.

Oh, I mentioned it’s real, but not real. Well, like Life, it’s just in how you interpret I suppose.

Since I decided to ramble on about the apartment light I made one additional snap, just for you. Here’s the way most cameras on full automatic or program would have seen the same subject in the light as it existed. And I widened the shot to show you can pull clean design out of visual clutter.




that pretty much covers it.


But of course, because of the stress, at 2:30 I meant to send this reply to Sam but accidentally sent it to Samy of Samy’s Cameras. I MAY have to cancel my subscription  to!

Hi Joe,

I hope all is well with you.

Did you mean to send this to me or did you want to send it to Samy?

Samy’s email is

many thanks,


My reply:

Hi Sam,

I guess I missed the class on multiples at Nikon School.  I was out generating National Ads and award winning editorial photography.

There was no reason to send that particular photo to you other than Getty selected it.  One thing I will share with you that many fine photographers have forgotten.  One of the reasons most photographers get involved in photography is because they love it and want to have fun.  I’ve spent the last 4 decades breaking teeth, breaking my back trying desperately to make my clients happy and make a reasonable livelihood.  I’ve chosen to spend the balance of my days left on the planet having fun and learning how to become an amateur photographer.  Let’s call it full circle.

Have a fabulous, great, happy day.

Joe D”

©Joe DiMaggio - Please find Sam!

©Joe DiMaggio – Please find Sam Garcia!

Sam Garcia: The Big Picture

To all the ships at sea,

Sam Garcia © Sam Garcia

Sam Garcia © Sam Garcia

Never let it be said that Sam Garcia has one hell of a sense of humor. He recently sent me a self portrait that he did all by himself with his new Leica Q. What I love about the photo is that he is so giddy! Take my word for it, this is Sam being giddy. I like the photograph. Sam takes any opportunity to remind me that I should consider becoming more flexible, no doubt he has a point. I’ll recognize the point but I’ll be damned if I’m going to change. Wow, that doesn’t sound too good, does it? Let’s move away from the words, and get to two great photos by the 2016 winner of the Pulitzer Feature

Photography winner, Jessica Rinaldi  (© Jessica Rinaldi Globe staff two photos below)

Strider © Jessica Rinaldi Globe Staff 21e


Strider © Jessica Rinaldi Globe Staff 20eIn the interest of cutting to the chase, my two favorite photos are #3 and #11, as presented in the online Boston Globe article. (

University of Missouri School of Journalism vs. Captions.