I know everyone who attended the photo retreat on Memorial Day weekend- Every person, to a man and a woman all said the same thing. They absolutely loved Dennis Wheeler. The idea of sharing my 30 plus years relationship with Dennis with the students worked out better than I expected. To say Dennis is a master of the arts would be an understatement. He’s a Renaissance man on steroids. Every time I feel a visual block getting ready to bite me on the butt I call Dennis and invite myself to his farm, where he proceeds to motivate me to get off my duff and start producing work.
I sat listening to every word that Dennis spoke and watching the faces of the participants and guests at the party. It was a beautiful thing. Here are a couple of comments.
“Thank you for inviting me to the Retreat/Party. It was an enjoyable experience, in which I learned a great deal about photography, creativity and myself. Meeting Dennis Wheeler gave me new insight into questions that remained unanswered until his down to earth, realism in his lecture.
“The Retreat was a great success on all levels. Hope to see you on June 12, 2011 in Lower Manhattan. All the best.”
“A special thank you to Dennis Wheeler for demonstrating that creativity does not stop at 60 – whatever – years old!”
“It is hard to put into words what this past visit with you has meant. I find the below a step in the process of putting into words what occurred at your home and Learning Center. That said, I look forward to further workshops that explore what the below author suggests, and what Dennis Wheeler demonstrated.”
“I had a wonderful time, learned a lot, got to exchange ideas with a great group of photographers, had an opportunity to listen and learn from an accomplished artist (Dennis Wheeler)…”
“Thank you for a most wonderful day, I think it was better than any of us could have imagined. It was a great experience to sit around and talk about the arts and meet and spend time with Dennis, and to be topped off with some great music with Bobby and the boys. But the best was the hospitality you, Joe and Dylan exhibited by opening your home to us and ensuring that we all had a marvelous day. Thanks again, and look forward to seeing everyone again, real soon.”
About a month ago, I put together a focusing ring that would allow me to turn a Singh-Ray Vari-ND and the Blue-N-Gold to change the value of light and color, without touching the filter or the camera. I used some of my favorite tools, duct tape and crazy glue.
In a casual conversation with Carl Saieva from Sartek Industries Inc., – a world class designer and engineer. He said to send him a picture and he’d see what he could do. Well, this is what he did. He machined the parts. They’re super slick, smooth, easy to assemble, and did I mention that they work really well? This is the difference between a consumate professional and a hack. My intentions are good and sometimes the end result actually works, but most of the time it looks like shit. Thank God for great friends!
Well, next year it’ll have been 30 years since I loaded film into your Nikons at the 1982 Indy 500. It was a complete thrill to finally be able to work the other side of the fence after growing up at the track each May tagging along with my Dad. Of course things have changed a bit since then. In addition to the digital revolution, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has undergone a major facelift and is a World-class facility. I started shooting the 500 for Reuters in 1990 and have been back ever since. Last year, I had the honor of having my college-aged daughter, Ainslie, join the family “business” and become the 4th generation of Millers to pick up a camera at the 500. Back at the 1982 you captured the memorable image of the Johncock/Mears finish, and who knew that 24 years later in 2006 I’d repeat the feat by capturing the Hornish/Andretti finish that would appear double-trucked in SI as well as the NY Times.
I am so proud of you not only as a photographer but as one hell of a fine human being. There are very few young people that would give up their bed back in the day so we could get to the Indy 500 at 5 A.M. to beat the traffic. And like many of my assistants, you did so much more than just load film into my Nikons. Without your help, that photograph would not have been done. It’s something that I’ve been aware of my whole life. We tend to think we work in isolation. We tend to think how important we are. But the same way that Rick Mears would say “It’s a team effort”, I say the same thing. We worked as a team. Your work is amazing. You deserve everything that you get and some more. And who knows- maybe in the next couple of years, we’ll have an opportunity to work together again. Keep on shooting and remember the first rule of photographing racecars: Never turn your back on one.
I remember my mother and father taking me to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Sitting on top of my dad’s shoulders, looking at the giant floats, the beautiful colors, the magnificent music, and here we are a couple of years later spending the day at Coney Island at the Mermaid Parade. My new policy is one camera, one lens, two batteries, two cards. I chose to test a new lens, a 135 f/2. Last year’s parade, I used a 10-22mm. Obviously, a huge change! But, changing it up is a good thing. What I’m about to say is no scientific fact. It appeared to me for every person in the parade, there were 3 photographers. I could be off, but I’m not that far off.
There is no doubt in my mind I am one of the luckiest photographers in the world; for that matter, I am probably one of the luckiest people in the world. As a contributing photographer for Sports Illustrated for several decades, I’ve had an opportunity to photograph Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, and my god the list just goes on and on and on. Four years ago I started to fulfill a dream of doing a full-length boxing documentary. The name of that documentary is “In This Corner.” It features five protagonists. The main protagonist is Yuri Foreman.Foreman was born in Belle rousse, moved to Israel, and he now resides in Brooklyn. All of the boxers, plus hundreds more that I did not name, are all great in their own right. Yuri Foreman out of all of them is the hardest working; most dedicated human being I have ever met. He has fought his way from absolute poverty to last Saturday night, doing something that very few people believed he could actually do. He won the WBA Junior Middle Weight Championship of the world (154). All the odds were against him. Many of the definitive experts believed that he had no chance, but in spite of the odds, in spite of the nay-sayers, he prevailed. They now call him, “the lion from Zion.” I emailed Yuri congratulations. He was gracious enough to email me back “Joe we did it!” I wrote him back and said, “No, Yuri. You did it. You did it alone. It takes an extremely special person to step through those ropes and put it all on the line. Very few have the courage to do it and fewer yet become champion of the world.” I am proud to be called a friend of Yuri Foreman.
Post Script: Like all great Hollywood movies, we always want to see the good guy win, live happily ever after, and ride off into the sunset. But unfortunately, in the real world, sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way. Yuri Foreman lost his title in Yankee stadium on 2010-06-05. He re-injured his meniscus. On his next fight, he lost again to Pawel Wolak. Certainly not the way we wanted to remember Yuri Foreman. But as we all know, sometimes life is just not fair. So to all the ships at sea, keep both hands up and your eye on the prize and never give up.
Every person’s life is marked with milestones. One of my milestones at age 18 was photographing a folk group by the name of Peter, Paul, and Mary. It was one of their early performances. I was totally blown away by the music and mesmerized by Mary Travers. She was a blonde with a beautiful frame, beautiful hair, and a great voice. It just doesn’t get better than that at age 18. On September 16, 2009 the world lost one of the most beautiful people that God put on this planet. I loved her then, and I love her today. All of my original negatives are somewhere in photo limbo. I have been looking for them for a long time. Eventually, I will find them. I am posting this particular photo, which was an original black and white and then made into an orthochromatic print on a textured matt paper which I painted over a very long time ago. The original black and white hung over Mary’s couch for many years. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, I will do another tribute to Mary when I find my original negatives.
I was contracted by the Canadian Olympic Association to photograph basketball, boxing, soccer, track and field, and kayaking. I fell in love with kayaking and proceeded to kayak for the next 20 years and moved to ocean kayaking. One of the things that I used kayaking for was eye-hand coordination and remote photography. Will try to dig out some of the film- Yes, Alice, there was film in those days! I’ll see if I can show you a few examples. But, in the interim, every once and a while I like to take the rust off and go photograph kayaking. Here are a few frames. Hope you enjoy them. Shutter speed ranged between a 500 and 1000, ISO 200. 80 to 200 mm lens. Pick a number- f4.5.
There is an old adage when all else fails tell the truth. It’s something I genuinely believe in. The new word today is “transparency” – tough to stay up with the brave new world! About 20 years ago I had a conversation with one of the most powerful women in the world of photography. She took a $50,000 corporation and turned it into the second largest agency in the world and sold it for upwards of thirty-million dollars. I said to Sally, I guess I’m 20 years behind the time and she said that it was the exact opposite and that I was way ahead of my time. It was a wonderful compliment but I’m not sure if I actually believed it. When the technology came for the motor drives, I did not embrace it. The next big leap was auto programming and I did not embrace this. Shortly afterwards, autofocusing came out and I did an interview and was quoted as saying my clients want me to focus the camera – I’m not a grandfather yet! Need I say, I did not embrace that technology either? I’ve been making photographs on film for 5 decades. When digital came out I did not embrace it. Is it possible that one man could be wrong about so many things? I’m afraid the answer is yes.
Of course, in 2011, I utilize all this new technology. There is no doubt that when you use these tools properly you’ll be rewarded. Wiebetech has given me an opportunity to not be 20 years behind the times but actually to be 20 years ahead of the time. The combination of the big three – The Double Barreled Derringer (ToughTech Duo), The Little Gun (RTX220-QR) and the Big Gun (RTX800-IR) give me a tremendous advantage in filing, storing and retrieving all of my photographs and films. It is definitively the best technology today and to be honest, probably for a long time to come. Wiebetech has allowed me for the first time in a long time, to be ahead of the curve. I strongly recommend that every advanced photographer and filmmaker incorporates this technology to protect their life’s work. We all travel different roads and have different motivations and needs but with your solutions we will have choices. Thanks so much. Keep up the great work.