Collecting Photographers: Arnold Newman

Friday, October 30, 2009

The fraternity/sorority of photographers who actually make their living taking pictures is unbelievably small, even when you add all of our predecessors throughout the ages. At one point I realized despite my aesthetic preferences, they were all my heroes. I devoured all the stories, biographies & rumors I could glean. Since our history is so short many of them are still around, still making history. I found that as I toured around the world I could look them up in the telephone book & many would give me an audience.

One good friend who observed what I was doing accused me of “collecting photographers”. What’s the harm in that?

This is the first installment of what will become an ongoing series, a look into my own collection.  Since photographers are always behind the camera--"behind the scenes", they often get lost even though their images may live on.  I feel it is important to remember these icons of style, history & visual art.  Generations of us should never forget.

Arnold Newman
Considered to be a curmudgeon

He is dead now but during his long career, Arnold Newman was thought of as one of the most influential portrait photographers of his time. You have undoubtedly seen many of his pictures. He photographed every president from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton. His malevolent photo of Alfried Krupp, the German industrialist is one of the most controversial portraits to date. And his image of Igor Stravinsky at the piano has been so popular that its been seen as a poster on dorm room walls.

Arnold was teaching one summer at the Maine Photographic Workshops, as was I. His reputation of being irascible & a curmudgeon preceded him. He used to eat assistants for breakfast. So I was wary. Students clamored for his attention & he was always surrounded by fans.

I developed a strategy that relied on the fact that we would be there all week. For two or three days whenever I would run into him I made sure he saw me but I always ignored him. Nearing the end of the week I saw him finally sitting alone on a staircase. This was my chance. I swooped in & started a low key conversation. He talked about his son at college in Boston.

Over the years we taught many more workshops together & traded stories & lies over many meals. He told me about the anguish of being discriminated against because he was Jewish. I considered him a friend & I think he thought the same of me. The last few years of his life he worked on his legacy. Doing lectures & mounting exhibitions of his life’s work. He fought very hard to bury the “difficult” reputation built in his youth.

There are probably a hundred thousand stories in our profession. This has been one of them

For more info on Arnold Newman check out the Arnold Newman Archive and his Biography on Wikipedia


Anonymous,  October 31, 2009 at 6:13 AM  

What a great idea for a series! Thanks for this; I look forward to more entries.

Anonymous,  November 3, 2009 at 11:47 PM  

great. I would love to learn more about photographers Lou Jones thinks are worthwhile writing about.

Re a different subject, photographing the "Confederate Airforce"? . . .

Dick Taffe,  November 5, 2009 at 7:58 AM  

Turn those lenses around and let us see their faces, Lou ... this is a terrific concept ...

Anonymous,  November 8, 2009 at 7:39 AM  

Well as a Newbie I am encouraged what I read here, we as photographers are all "threads" to anothers success or not or even that glimpse of famed amorous awakening we so long for. Our sensibility to light and the emotion we are able to create from it becomes our very own.

Paul Light November 24, 2009 at 12:59 PM  

Years ago I went to a Arnold Newman lecture. He was fantastic. I could have listened to him for hours. Afterwards I approached him with a few brief questions, fearful of his reputation for being quick tempered. He was kind and courteous. To this day he remains one of my heroes. I, too, hope you do more posts like this one.

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About This Blog

blog (blŏg, bläg) n. 1. short for Weblog 2. online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer 3. diary that is posted on the Internet 4. an experiment to verbalize my observations about the status of photography. It will be eclectic & deal with philosophy & practice of this universal art form. It will strive for periodic commentary about issues many photographers face, like ownership and the economy. It will also talk about pictures and what makes good ones and how to get them. No hardware. No software. No recycled clichés. No whining.