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.
As a photographer, one of the first things you learn is eye-hand coordination. Your ability to look at 300 people, 7 people, front-lit, back-lit, and see the photo that you want to make. And before you can even think about it, you’ve made 3 or 4, each one a variation of a theme, not just a motor sequence. Making back lit adjustments on the fly, always thing about where the next photograph is going to come. That’s the good news. The bad news can be all of those things that work against you. And you miss the obvious. It’s happened to me before, and I’m pretty sure it’ll happen to me again. You never want to have blinders on. You want to be open to new lighting, new composition, new stories, and new direction. Invariably, you will grow and your work will improve accordingly. While looking at this very beautiful young lady and preparing to do a very shallow, depth of field simple photograph, I look down and to my right and saw one eye and one sideburn and a little bit of a mustache. I said “Oh my god, could that be Melchior DiGiacomo?” I took the photograph, looked down, I tapped him on the shoulder, and he said “Joe D., just a minute”. I guess it’s like two chubby italians meeting in the daylight, or is that two ships in the night? I can never get it right. The funny thing about it is I haven’t seen Melchoir in 30 years. And my god, nothing’s changed! It’s good that there is some consistency in this universe.
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.