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March 21st, 2016

Civil Rights Photographer Bob Adelman: Interview by Photographer Matt Herron

Bob Adelman (left), Steve Shapiro, Charles Moore, and an unidentified LIFE magazine film courier at the Selma march in 1965.

Bob Adelman (left), Steve Shapiro, Charles Moore, and an unidentified LIFE magazine film courier at the Selma march in 1965.

Civil Rights photographer Bob Adelman, who died over the weekend at the age of 85, was profiled recently in an essay titled “Shooting Civil Rights” by photographer Matt Herron. A friend and colleague of Adelman’s, and a fellow Civil Rights activist, Herron wrote the essay for a traveling exhibit called “This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement.” The exhibit, which Herron curated, is currently at the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania through May 15, and will open next in Cincinnati. The following excerpt is reproduced with Herron’s permission.  

Bob Adelman was working in New York in the early 60’s as a darkroom assistant at Reader’s Digest. “When the sit-ins started, it seemed to me the country was paralyzed as far as dealing with discrimination was concerned, but I saw the sit-ins as a way an average person could do something about an insoluble problem, so I volunteered with New York CORE.” As a teenager, Adelman had had no contact at all with black people, but he loved jazz and used to sneak out at night to Birdland, one of New York’s principal jazz clubs. “I didn’t think of black people as oppressed, I thought of them as from some other planet, with this fantastic talent. Because I was Jewish, I had my own problems with discrimination, so I identified with black discrimination. My college thesis was on slave breeding farms in the upper South.”

Shooting for CORE, Adelman covered attempts to integrate eating establishments along Baltimore’s route 40. Eventually magazines began asking to see his contact sheets, and from this beginning Adelman gradually found his calling as a magazine photographer. He continued shooting for CORE in the deep South, handling magazine assignments on the side and documenting life in remote black communities in Louisiana and Alabama. But he is best known for his incredible pictures of Birmingham police attempting to hose down demonstrators in Kelly Ingram Park.

. . . . .

Most of us had our personal strategies for staying safe while staying in action. But one overriding principle governed us all: our job was to get the pictures and get them out into the wider world, not to collect glory or jail time as some civil rights hero. As photographers we worked fully exposed and if we got arrested and/or lost our film, we had failed at our job. Consequently, any tactic or ruse that kept us going, no matter how cowardly, was perfectly acceptable. On occasion we lied, used fake press credentials, toadied up to police, or pretended to be someone else — all in the service of our cause. Mostly, we never admitted we were working for or with the Movement. Simply being there was tough enough.

Bob Adelman is a big man and a charming one, and he often used his charm on the Powers That Be. He remembers shooting in Sumter, South Carolina during a CORE voter registration drive.

“When I wasn’t busy I would wander around town taking pictures. A city official asked me what I was doing. I told him I was a service man from the nearby Air Force base and had pleasant memories of the town, so I was taking some pictures for memory’s sake. He was so won over that he took me on a personal tour of the town. In the courthouse I saw blacks lined up to register and I asked him, ‘Do those people actually vote here?

“I had the reputation in the movement of being rather fearless. I thought I was doing the right thing and that I had a right to photograph. It was probably a stupid idea, but that was the way I felt. I was routinely arrested. They’d feed you some turnips and when the demonstration was over, they’d let you go. I wasn’t bound by non-violence because I wasn’t a demonstrator, so occasionally I would use my Leica as a weapon, whipping it around when I felt threatened. Toward the end of 1965 driving through Mississippi and Louisiana I got so paranoid I carried a gun in my car. And everywhere I went both blacks and whites had guns.”

Related:
Bob Adelman, Civil Rights Photographer, Dies at 85

March 7th, 2016

Obit: Environmental Photographer Gary Braasch Dies While Snorkeling on Great Barrier Reef

Gary Braasch © Joan Rothlein

Gary Braasch © Joan Rothlein

Gary Braasch, who had documented climate change, conservation and other environmental issues since 1974, died today while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. He was 70.

Braasch’s death was reported by Reuters, which says the photographer was documenting the effect of climate change on the reef off the northeastern coast of Australia. The cause of the Braasch’s death is being investigated by Queensland police, the wire service reports.

Braasch’s work on the environment has appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times, Smithsonian, Audubon, and other publications. He published his acclaimed book on climate change, titled Earth Under Fire, in 2007. In 2000, he launched the  World View of Global Warming website, a compendium of his climate change work from all over the world, and a respected resource on the issues and science of climate change for educators, students, and the general public. To raise awareness about environmental issues and climate change, he produced exhibits for the National Academy of Science, the Field Museum in Chicago, Boston Museum of Science, and other science and natural history museums. He was also a fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers.

To read the full obituary, see PDNOnline.

December 29th, 2015

In Memoriam: John Chervinsky, Physics Engineer and Photographer, 54

John Chervinsky, an engineer whose photographs exploring the nature of time were exhibited around the U.S., died December 21 at the age of 54. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer, according to the Griffin Museum of Photography, which administers a scholarship in his name.

Chervinsky balanced his loves of art and science while pursuing two careers. He ran a particle accelerator at Harvard University for 18 years, and then went to work for Harvard’s Rowland Institute for Science. Long interested in photography, he primarily shot street photos until 2001. In that year, a series of tragedies inspired him to spend more time in a studio he set up in his attic, as he told Lenscratch in a 2011 article. In 2003, he enrolled in Photography Atelier, a program for emerging to advanced photographers then offered through Lesley University in Boston. He began fashioning images that explored and expanded the camera’s ability to freeze a moment time. His images have been exhibited at CordenPotts Gallery, Blue Sky Gallery, PhotoEye Project Gallery, the Griffin Museum of Photography and other exhibition spaces.

In a 2013 interview with photographer Barbara Davidson for Framework, the photo blog of the Los Angeles Times, Chervinsky explained the method he used to create the still-life images in his “Studio Physics” series.

“My process is as follows:
1) Compose and photograph a still life.
 2) Crop a subset of the image and send it to a painting factory in China.
3) Wait for an anonymous artist in China to complete an actual oil painting of the cropped section, and send it to me in the mail.
 4) Reinsert the painting into the original setup and re-photograph.”

By the time he re-photographed the set up, the elements of his still life—an arrangement of fruit or bundles of flowers—would have begun to rot and fade. In his series “An Experiment in Perspective,” he used an overhead projector to project shapes onto a wall that he would then trace with chalk. “If I stood at just the right spot with my camera, it appeared to be hovering in a different plane out from the surfaces of the walls,” he explained. He then combined his markings of circles, squares and cylinders with real, three-dimensional objects.

As he told Aline Smithson of Lenscratch, “Conceptually, the work deals with the divide between rational or scientific explanations of existence and man’s need to explain the world around him with various systems of belief.”

(This week, Lenscratch published reminiscences of Chervinsky by colleagues and friends, “John Chervinsky, Celebrating a Life.”)

Chervinsky’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Portland Museum of Art in Oregon, List Visual Art Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Santa Barbara Museum of Art and other public and private collections.

The Griffin Museum administers the John Chervinsky Emerging Photographer Award, which each year provides a photographer tuition-free enrollment in Photography Atelier, an exhibition at the Griffin Museum, and a photo book selected from Chervinsky’s personal library.

© John Chervinsky

An Experiment in Perspective, John Chervinsky’s self-published book. © John Chervinsky

November 4th, 2015

In Memoriam: Photographer Burgess Blevins, 73

Burgess S. Blevins ©Kathy Wildberger

Burgess S. Blevins ©Kathy Wildberger

Photographer Burgess S. Blevins, whose career as a commercial photographer spanned nearly four decades, died suddenly on September 27th while hunting on the Maryland farm where he was raised. He was 73 years old.

Blevins began his career in the late 1960s, and continued shooting assignments until a decade ago. His clients over the years included Anheuser-Busch, Army National Guard, Britten-Norman Aircraft, IBM, Dell, John Deere, Lockheed Martin, Remington, Northrop Grumman, and Visa.

“Burgess was a master of location production and the manipulation of natural light,” his friend and former rep Robert Mead wrote. “Having grown up on a farm, he had an innate sense of his surroundings. He was a ‘wizard of weather,’ and proved it many times. Whether it was pouring rain, or snowing, he was able to locate the one square mile within 50, where it was bright and sunny. And yes, he could make it rain, put ice on grass or on a man’s beard in 90º weather.”

Born January 30, 1942, Blevins graduated from the Maryland Institute of Art and set up his photography business in Baltimore. He was also a renowned bow hunter. “When on a shoot he wanted to be with his bow, and while on a hunt he wanted to be riding on a ridge looking for the perfect shot,” Mead said.

He is survived by his partner, Kathy Wildberger, as well as by three children, three grandchildren, and three siblings.

–Jay Watson

May 28th, 2015

Photographer Cotton Coulson Dies in Diving Accident on National Geographic Expedition

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Cotton Coulson ©Doug Menuez

Photographer Cotton Coulson, a former National Geographic contributor and Baltimore Sun DOP, died yesterday as a result of a diving accident last Sunday, according to NPPA‘s News Photographer magazine. He was 60 years old.

Coulson was participating as an instructor in a 17-day National Geographic adventure photography workshop in Norway when the accident occurred. According to the NPPA report, Coulson signaled trouble to a diving partner, who then dragged him to the surface of the water. The diving partner administered CPR, and rescue workers were able to re-start Coulson’s heart, but he never regained consciousness. He died at a hospital in Tromsø, Norway.

“We are devastated,” says photographer Doug Menuez, who along with his wife was close friends with Coulson and his wife, former National Geographic photographer Sisse Brimberg. Menuez remembers Coulson as an iconoclast “with a wicked sense of humor,” and adds, “Cotton wasn’t blowing his own horn. He was content to do excellent work, and let it speak for itself.

“It’s heartbreaking to think he’s gone.”

A National Geographic spokesperson told PDN that the publisher will soon issue a statement about Coulson’s death.

Coulson began contributing to National Geographic in 1975, after graduating from film school at New York University. He was hired as a contract photographer the following year, and produced more than a dozen stories for the magazine.

Around 1987, he became associate director of photography at US News & World Report, and several years later, joined The Baltimore Sun as Director of Photography.

In the mid 1990s, Coulson relocated to San Francisco, where he was senior VP/Product Development at CNET. About a decade ago, he and Brimberg moved to Copenhagen, and founded a production company called Keenpress. They produced photography and films about travel, climate issues, the environment and other subjects for various media outlets and corporations.

In addition to his wife, Coulson is survived by his son Calder and daughter Saskia, as well as by his sister and his mother.

May 22nd, 2015

In Memoriam: Environmental Portrait Photographer Seth Kushner, 41

Seth KushnerSeth Kushner, a photographer who shot environmental portraits for The New York Times Magazine, Time, Vibe and Businessweek and was selected for PDN’s 30 in 1999, died May 17 of leukemia. He was 41.

A native of Brooklyn, Kushner knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was in high school. After he graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, he began shooting a number of editorial assignments and was syndicated by Retna. When he was profiled for the first issue of PDN’s 30: New and Emerging Photographers to Watch in 1999, photo editor Michelle Molloy, then at Newsweek, praised the vibrancy and energy of Kushner’s portraits, and noted, “He also hits it off well with people, which is important for a portrait photographer, yet he never loses perspective of the person he’s shooting.” Kushner said, “I want to say either by location or action or clothes or composition what my subjects are about, aside from simply what they look like.”

Kushner turned his passions for two of his favorite subjects – Brooklyn and comic books—into photo books. In 2007, he published The Brooklynites (powerHouse Books), which combined his environmental portraits of Brooklyn residents, both famous and unknown, with interviews by Anthony LaSala (former senior editor at PDN). Years before “Brooklyn” became synonymous with “hipster Mecca,” The Brooklynites celebrated residents from every part of the borough and every walk of life: writers and actors, a sanitation worker, a handball player, a pizza maker, clergy, teachers, British émigrés raising toddlers in Park Slope.

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

Stan Lee. Photo © Seth Kushner

A collector of super-hero memorabilia, Kushner co-founded the website Graphic NYC in 2008 with writer Christopher Irving to celebrate pioneering comic book artists. Kushner expanded the website into a book, Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comic Books, published by powerHouse Books in 2012. It featured Kushner’s portraits of such artists as Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; Frank Miller, creator of Sin City; and Art Spiegelman, author of the graphic memoir Maus.

Kushner was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2014. Members of the communities Kushner was most involved with – the photo community, comic book artists and fans, and his neighborhood in Brooklyn—contributed to an online fundraising campaign set up to raise money for medical bills and living expenses while Kushner was unable to work. Memorial contributions to the campaign will now help support his wife, Terra, and their son, Jackson, who survive him.

Related article:
PDN Photo of the Day: Real-Life Comic Book Heroes

March 24th, 2015

Obituary: Paul C. Buff, 78

paul

Paul Conrad Buff, founder of the lighting company that bears his name, passed away this week of unspecified causes. He was 78.

While he best known in the photo industry for his low-cost lighting solutions, Buff also made his mark in the music industry. According to the Paul C. Buff website, Buff was the owner of Pal Music Studios in California, birthplace of the surf music revolution, which he later sold to Frank Zappa. He also pioneered the computerized recording console.

Buff turned his attention to photography lighting, founding Paul C. Buff, Inc. in 1980. He sought to reduce the price of studio gear by selling direct to consumers.

You can read an obituary of Buff penned by his wife, Deborah, here.

December 9th, 2014

Obituary: LIFE Photographer Ralph Morse, 97

Photographer Ralph Morse, who covered war, sports, science, celebrities, theater, and other assignments during his long career as a staff photographer for LIFE and TIME magazines, died December 7 at his home in Florida. He was 97.

Morse’s death was reported yesterday by TIME magazine, which said on its website that “no photographer in the history of LIFE magazine had a more varied, thrilling and productive career.” Morse became LIFE’s youngest World War II correspondent when he joined the magazine in 1941 at the age of 24.

He covered the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942, and later on, the liberation of Paris in 1944 and the surrender of Germany at Reims in 1945. After the war, Morse covered a wide range of assignments for LIFE, beginning with Broadway and the London theater, and eventually sports, science and technology, and other subjects.

Besides the major events of World War II, Morse was witness to other historic moments of the 20th century. TIME describes his iconic shot of Jackie Robinson “one of the greatest baseball photographs ever made.” Morse also photographed Babe Ruth’s farewell at Yankee Stadium, Einstein’s funeral, the Ali-Liston fight, and other events.

According to TIME, Morse was the first civilian to fly on a Strategic Air Command B-47 Stratojet, a nuclear bomber developed during the Cold War. He was also the first to shoot color photographs of the caves of Lascaux. He also covered NASA’s Mercury space flight program.

He remained a staff photographer for LIFE magazine until it folded in 1972, then joined TIME magazine. He retired in 1988, and told John Leongard, author of LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, that he sold all his cameras and and stopped taking photographs to avoid “everybody and his brother” asking him to photograph their weddings.

December 8th, 2014

Obituary: Street Photographer Arthur Leipzig, 86

Arthur Leipzig, a documentary photographer who captured daily life in New York City, died on Friday, December 5, 2014, at his home in Sea Cliff, N.Y., The New York Times reports.  He was 96.

A high-school dropout, Leipzig studied under Sid Grossman at the Photo League, enrolling in 1941 after he injured his hand in an industrial accident. He soon after joined the staff of the daily newspaper PM, and began photographing the children of New York City, work later immortalized in the 1994 book Growing Up in New York. Leipzig claimed he was inspired by the Flemish painter Pierter Bruegel the Elder and his depictions of children’s games in Renaissance-era Flanders.

51g-CDLasdL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_He was born Isidore Leipzig on Oct. 25, 1918, in Brooklyn, NY, but never used his first name, and legally changed it to Arthur when he came of age. Leipzig lost his sight in his left eye while covering a story on backyard skating rinks, but still retained enough depth perception to continue in photography.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City included his work in its exhibition of photography’s “New Faces” in 1946, and his photo “Sleeping Child” was exhibited as part of “Photography in the Fine Arts” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1960. Leipzig’s work is a part of the permanent collections of the MoMA, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. His photos were exhibited in 24 solo shows, and he published four books of photography. From 1968–1991, he taught art at C.W. Post College of Long Island University, and in 2004 he was given the Lucie Award for fine arts photography by the Lucie Foundation.

He is survived by his wife of 72 years, the former Mildred Levin; his daughter, Judith; his son, Joel; three grandsons and a great-granddaughter.

November 26th, 2014

Obituary: Lewis Baltz, Age 69

Lewis Baltz, a star of the New Topographics movement of the late 1960s and 70s, has died. According to his longtime gallerist Theresa Luisotti, the photographer passed away at his home in Paris, France, on Saturday, November 22, 2014 of complications related to cancer and emphysema. He was 69 years old.

Along with Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke and Stephen Shore, Baltz was a major contributor to the New Topography, a movement that broadened the scope of landscape photography, famously bursting onto the art scene with the famed exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape,” at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, in 1975. Baltz is best known for his bleak suburban landscapes—stark images of manmade structures devoid of human presence—such as those in his seminal 1974 book, The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California.

"The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, California"

“South Wall Mazda Motos, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine” on the original cover of “The new Industrial Parks near Irvine, California” as published by Castelli Graphics in 1974.

Baltz was born in Newport Beach, California, on September 12, 1945. His parents owned a mortuary business. The rapidly developing Southern California suburbs heavily influenced Baltz; he witnessed firsthand the cities’ sprawl, devouring the landscape with concrete and asphalt as it spread.

He was exposed to photography and art as a teen, when he took a job working in a camera store in Laguna Beach and was mentored by its owner, William Current. He would study at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Claremont Graduate School.

After the “New Topographics” show at Eastman House, the Castelli Gallery in New York exhibited work from The New Industrial Parks, and by 1977, his work was included in the Whitney Biennial.

His books Park City (1980) and San Quentin (1984)would form an informal trilogy with The New Industrial Parks, exploring the role of humanity’s use of technology to shape the American landscape. The exploration would culminate in his 84-image Candlestick Point project, which documented an open space between an airport and sports stadium where, thanks to development, all signs of nature had been stamped out.

Baltz moved to Europe in the late 1980s, began working with color, and eventually started teaching graduate courses at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. He is survived by his wife Slavica Perkovic and his daughter Monica Baltz.