Oh My God, it’s May!

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea,

If it’s May, it has to be the Indianapolis 500. This photograph was selected by Sports Illustrated as the third greatest photograph in the last 100 years of the 500. They reproduced it in the centennial issue and on their website. That’s the good news, the bad news is they never asked me. Does the word “copyright” mean anything to anyone? Who said “power to the people”? No, it’s “power to the corporation”, step on all the people. In this society, we all have to play by the same rules. Actually, I think someone wrote that in the Constitution. To my friends; go out and make some great photos. Capture history with a camera. Life is good, life is great. Health and happiness to everybody, even SI.

I Really Did Invent the GoPro—NOT

© Joe DiMaggio

We always want photography to be fun; if it’s not fun then why do it? On an assignment for Sports Illustrated on the first great woman drag racer of our times, Shirley Muldowney, I spent a week with her and it was just pure fun. It was after her horrific crash in 1984, yet she maintained a light, airy persona and was genuinely warm, friendly, and cooperative; until I mentioned that I wanted to mount a camera on the nose of her Top Fuel Dragster. In many ways, Shirley was a hero to me. She was a great spokesman for the sport, and a great role model for women. On the first run with the camera mounted on the nose of the Dragster, the torque and power snapped a quarter twenty bolt and the camera fell over and almost hit the cement. The safety wire stopped it from becoming a photographic hand grenade. On that note, let’s always remember; safety first, photography second. After talking with her engineer we decided to take the nose cone off and bolt the camera directly to the rail. The camera we used was a Nikon F with motor and a 16mm lens. Photos were taken on Kodachrome 64 with an exposure of f16 at 1/60 of a second, tripped with an old fashioned module light.

© Joe DiMaggio

I Invented the GoPro— NOT

© Joe DiMaggio

One of the greatest assignments I had an opportunity to do was a three-week assignment for Sports Illustrated on three brothers, the Whittington brothers, who inherited nine hundred million dollars. They had an affinity for cars, planes, and all things exciting.  Their 1979 Le Mans entrance won first in their class. A small part of my assignment was to have the three cars together at speed, so I ordered a Mitchell mount from California, mounted a Nikon f2 with a motor with a 15mm lens, and a remote cord into the compartment where I sat on four roll bars. I explained that we only needed to go 40 to 50 miles an hour. Unfortunately, race cars like to grip at much higher speeds. We did one pass at about 100 miles an hour, I changed film, and on the second pass, I could feel the remote button and my camera was out of film. I believe my quote was “we can go back to the pits, I’m done”. I will never ever use those words again. Bill Whittington kicked in the turbo and we went from 100 to 160 in what seemed like a millisecond, until the rear end broke loose (please keep in mind, he had on his Nomex, his balaclava, his gloves, his helmet, and all of his racing belts. I had beech nut gum and a death grip on the roll cage). He took the emergency road, locked up all the brakes, came to a full stop, popped out of the automobile and I was still frozen. Paul Newman looked over and said to me “You must be out of your mind to get in a car with that wild man”. Once again, Paul was right.

As everyone knows, I was brought into the digital world kicking and screaming. Now that I’m working on my memoirs, I realize what  I did with this series cost several thousand dollars and someone could have gotten hurt (namely me). In the world of digital, using two GoPros, one on the front and one on the back of the car would’ve been safer. I don’t have to be in the car, so if they would like to do 180, so be it. The overall cost would be less than $600 with a safety wire. God bless digital.

Shot at 1/15th of a second on Kodachrome 25 at f11.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio
Paul Newman with Don and Bill Whittington

Sports Illustrated- JoAnne Kalish

Photo Long Beach Grand Prix © JoAnne Kalish
Long Beach Grand Prix Shunt 31 © J.Kalish

© 1978 JoAnne Kalish Long Beach Grand Prix Mario Andretti and James Hunt

The interesting thing about having two photographers in the family is people ask, do we compete? What a silly question. Oops, I forgot, there are no silly questions. Of course we compete. We’re constantly competing, and we all know who is going to win. In the final analysis,  it certainly won’t be me. My partner JoAnne Kalish is great photographer

I’ll tell you a little story. On the inaugural Formula One auto race in Long Beach, California there were approximately 1500 photographers, each one of them looking for the best position for the start of the race to get the definitive Formula One start shot. Photographers like Neil Leifer who is considered one of the finest sports photographers in our time. Neil has a zillion SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covers. Along with Neil, there was Gary Nichermin, Louis Franck, Kevin Fitzgerald, Mike Phillips, myself, and a small, 101 pound JoAnne Kalish. Everybody marked their positions and waited for the cars to let loose with a burst of 36 exposures. There was a loud noise and the screeching of brakes and smoke all over the place. I followed a car moving to my left along with, I don’t know how many other photographers. At the end JoAnne said “Wow, did you get that shunt?” and I said yes, and everybody else said yes. Later on that evening we went to pick up our film, at the lab, and while there, everybody checked their film out on the light boxes provided. JoAnne opens up her first box of slides, and there was the entire motor series of the shunt at the start of the race, with James Hunt’s car literally on one wheel flipping up in the air, which, by the way, Mario Andretti ran double truck in his coffee table book. JoAnne said, “did you guys get this?” We’re all looking around wondering what she’s talking about and sure enough, she has the whole motor series of this shunt. We didn’t get it, we never even saw it. But she nailed it! That’s JoAnne, small ego, great talent. That was the first photo she had published in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and they ran it again in SI’s YEAR IN PICTURES.

There wasn’t another photographer at the race that captured the shots she got!

Bill Eppridge in a Class By Himself

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.

Adorama Inaugural Street Fair

My dear friend Monica Cipnic asked me if I would come and do a few programs for the Adorama Inaugural Street Fair. My answer was, “Of course!” She put me in contact with Brian Green, who is Vice President of Marketing. Two phone calls, one email, and we were ready to go. To say the program was successful is really an understatement. They had over 9,000 attendees and it was a great cross-section of photographers, beginners to well-seasoned pros. And the bottom line is: It was a lot of fun. I managed to squeeze in 3 separate programs, and from the response on Facebook, that was pretty successful. (Notice how I’m throwing around all those high-tech, modern things like “Facebook”? You didn’t think I knew what that was, did you? If it’s good enough for Lady Gaga and President Obama, who am I to say it’s not cool?) Hopefully, this will be just the first of many. Thank the powers that be for the opportunity.

Joe DiMaggio