In my career I have been blessed with a few fortunate lucky right place, right time relationships. The first and foremost was attending the University of Missouri school of Journalism Workshop. It really doesn’t get better than that. The second would be assisting W. Eugene Smith who taught me more about communications then anyone. Actually, he taught me more about many things but for the purpose of this we won’t go there. When asked to deliver a keynote speech at the NPPA, one of the people I thanked was Bill Eppridge. I would love to tell you that I know Bill well but as the truth be known, that’s just is not so. But here’s what I do know. Bill Eppridge has very few peers. He stands alone with his great talent. He also has another quality that generally photographers don’t have. He’s an extremely humble about what he’s accomplished over the last few decades and he’s still a viable force to be dealt with. Bill invited me to his retrospective at the Fairfield Museum. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. This past Sunday I had a little time off and decided to go to Fairfield, Connecticut to see the show. I thought I knew exactly what I was going to see. Boy, was I wrong. I had no idea the depth and scope of his work. Like many other photographers, we know about the positive RFK Photos, but the retrospective truly showed what an amazingly great talent he is. This is one of the few times I wish I was a great writer because there aren’t enough adjectives to express what an important body of work he has. Photographer Alfred Eisenstadt, once told me, he had maybe only a dozen fine photographs. When I had the audacity to tell him, “no you have thousands of great photographs,” he smiled, clicked his heels and said, “one day you will understand.”
Thanks Bill for continuing to teach me the importance and power of a great still image.
“In a world that seems to be moving at light speed, the new technologies should be embraced. We as visual communicators should always remember the photograph comes first. The content is more important than the pixels or the manipulation after the fact.
My love affair for this medium has only grown ten-fold. With the advent of digital it’s like starting all over again. Our future generations will look back at this time the way we looked back to the Lumiere brothers. What a great time to be involved in photography and filmmaking.”
Ralph Morse behind camera with Ron Thompson looking on © Joe DiMaggio
A few days ago, I did a blog on tripods. On April 30, my blog was “Tripods: Love them or Hate them”. I started to think about it a little more. I looked over in the corner of the studio, saw that old Gitzo, and started to run the numbers. That tripod is 37 years old. It doesn’t look new, but it’s always worked perfectly. Pretty impressive. I looked around for a few photos and came up with a photo of the great LIFE magazine photographer Ralph Morse, an amazingly great Nikon tech-rep and good friend of mine Ron Thompson, and a very fine photographer by the name of Al Satterwhite. Ralph is alive and well and lives in Florida, Ron sadly, went to the great dark room in the sky about 15 years ago. This photo was taken in July of 1975 at the launch of Apollo-Soyuz. For the record, I take this big bad boy out today when I want to mount 2 or 3 cameras at a time and it’s still viable. But please keep in mind I adore my new Manfrotto’s. They’re super light, easy to pack, and work very well with the new DSLRs. Talking about that, imagine if you had a DSLR and was able to shoot HD video in July of 1975! How cool would that be? Ralph was kind enough to take a young photographer by the name of DiMaggio and teach him the ins and outs of how to photograph rocket launches. He came from the old school, and while I’m at it, he went to DeWitt Clinton High School, which coincidentally was the same school my dad went to! Sometimes it’s just a small world.
12/20/1918 – 10/15/1978
If you follow this blog, you know I tend to be wordy, and repeat myself. You’ve heard me say I’m the luckiest guy in the world, and that’s just true. I had an opportunity to assist Gene Smith back in the day and I can’t tell you how much I learned. In the last 20 years I felt guilty because I didn’t execute in a way that Smith would be proud of my work. I made photographs for clients that wanted and needed to control the situation. When pushed too hard, I resigned several clients, which in today’s market, would be just crazy. It’s only in the last few years I’m starting to go back to what Gene taught me. I hope it shows in my documentary film making. There is no doubt if Smith was alive today, he would be doing films rather than stills. The bottom line is he was the greatest, period, end of discussion. Nobody was better. I don’t think we’re going to see anybody better. Yes, Smith was a God! Thank you, Gene and I miss you everyday.