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December 5th, 2013

The Pleasure—and Challenges—of Photographing Nelson Mandela

©Jillian Edelstein

Nelson Mandela in 1997. © Jillian Edelstein

Nelson Mandela, the legendary African National Congress leader and former South African president, was a symbol of hope, justice and human rights to people around the world. South African photographers who saw him up close over the years—both before his international fame and afterwards—recall a man who was every bit as charismatic, gracious, and good humored as his public image suggested. Despite all the access Mandela gave them—or perhaps because of it—photographers found it challenging to get a unique portrait of him.

“He was unendingly charming,” says South African photographer Louise Gubb, who covered Mandela as a freelance photographer, and shot several portraits of him for various publications in the 1990s.

Gubb recounts one of Mandela’s ceremonial walks around the presidential compound in Cape Town. Mandela was surrounded by a phalanx of photographers when a photojournalist working for a local Afrikaans newspaper suddenly fell backwards into a fish pond.

“And Mandela—he was so sweet—he went and tried to help him out” of the water, Gubb says. After that, whenever Mandela saw that photographer at official events, “He would say, ‘Now you all watch your step today. I don’t want you swimming in my fish pond again.’”

The last time Gubb saw Mandela, four or five years ago at a press conference, he greeted her, “Hello, Louise. I thought you would be on pension by now,” she recalls.

“He always told jokes. He would have been a good comedian,” says Jürgen Schadeberg, who first photographed Mandela in 1951 at an African National Congress meeting, and took his portrait in 1952 in his law office. Schadeberg and Mandela met many times in the coming years, when the photographer was freelancing for Drum, the groundbreaking magazine that covered black life in South Africa.  Says Schadeberg, “He was what we call in German a mensch.” Mandela always held the press in high regard for the role it played in freeing him, and moving South Africa beyond apartheid. He didn’t play favorites, and never seemed to tire of the media attention (or the long parade of politicians, activists, and celebrities who trekked to South Africa just for an audience with him).

South African-born photographer Jillian Edelstein photographed Mandela for The New York Times Magazine in 1997. Meeting him at Tuynhuys, South Africa’s presidential office in Cape Town, Edelstein says she was awestruck.

“I started smiling and I thought my face would crack. It was like meeting a saint,” she says. “It was something I’d never experienced before or since.”

“I suppose for me, he emerged from what had been the bastion of the government oppressors.”  Seeing the first freely elected president, she says, symbolized “the oppressor supplanted,” Edelstein continues.

Since Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 (he ascended to the presidency of South Africa four years later, in an historic election), photographers have shot thousands upon thousands of images of him at public events. He was almost always smiling, as if he was truly delighted to be there, and he was often seen interacting with children or the downtrodden, giving them his full attention.

“He [would] always break ranks to say hello to the person in the wheelchair, or some little child,” says Gubb, noting that Mandela particularly loved being around kids.  “So if you knew that, you could [anticipate] and get great pictures … If there were children there who were going to sing, he would go over there and dance, and sometimes sing back to them.”

Because Mandela was photographed so often, and because he had one predominant mood (bright and sunny), it was a challenge to photograph him in any truly distinctive way. Edelstein says that when she photographed Mandela in 1997, his automatic reaction was to make a “thumbs up” sign. Finally she caught a moment when he looked reflective and “somewhat poignant,” she says.

“I think that up until that time the only images I’d seen that were coming out were him dancing or thumbs up or smiling.”

A year after his release from prison, he took a retinue of press back to Robben Island, where he was incarcerated for years. There, Schadeberg took one of the most reproduced photos of Mandela, showing him gazing through the bars of his former cell.  Photographers were given access to Mandela in the cell one at a time, Gubb says. “He was like a piece of putty,” willing to do whatever he was asked to do.

But after he was elected president, media access was much more limited. Still, Mandela hated to say no to photographers who asked for time with him.  “He’d say, ‘I’ll have to talk to my chiefs,’” Gubb says. “He  would hide behind his [handlers] because he didn’t like to refuse.”

A few photographers had privileged access. The late Alfred Kumalo of the Johannesburg Star was a family friend, and had freer range around the presidential grounds than other photographers, according to Gubb. Peter Magubane was Mandela’s official photographer between 1990 and 1994, and followed Mandela everywhere. Magubane, who had shot for Drum magazine and later Time magazine, tells PDN he had been hired as Mandela’s official photographer “because [Mandela] knew my credentials, and knew I wouldn’t sell out.” But Magubane describes their relationships as “strictly business.” By most assessments, no single photographer had the defining take on Mandela’s life, public or private.

Says Gubb, “Photographers, writers, television—everyone was [treated equally]. He took them all in their stride, and nobody was excluded.”

One challenge for photographers was that they couldn’t use flash when photographing Mandela; the rule was strictly enforced by his bodyguards. The reason was because his eyes had been damaged by the bright, reflective light of the sun at the limestone quarry where he was forced to work while a prisoner on Robben Island.

For the past six years, Mandela was largely out of the public eye. Several years ago, he invited Schadenberg and his wife to his home for lunch. “He was sitting in his armchair in his slippers. He said, ‘I’m an old man who isn’t doing much, just sitting around. It’s so kind of you busy people to come see me,’” Schadenberg recounts, adding that Mandela was always saying that he wasn’t anybody special.  “It wasn’t to make an impression.  It was genuine.”

November 28th, 2013

Color Photography Legend Saul Leiter Dies

Artist Saul Leiter, who spent decades working in relative obscurity before his talents as a pioneering color photographer came to light, died Tuesday in New York City. He was 89 years old.

An unassuming man who shunned attention, Leiter photographed on the streets of New York, mostly within a  few blocks of his East Village apartment. Using rich layering and swaths of beautiful color, Leiter induced moments of quietude and reflection amid the bustle and chaos of New York City street life.

(Read the full article at PDNOnline.com)

 

October 25th, 2013

Obituary: Deborah Turbeville, Pioneering Fashion Photographer

© Deborah Turbeville

© Deborah Turbeville

Photographer Deborah Turbeville, whose atmospheric images for Mademoiselle, Harper’s Bazaar, Italian Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, Cacharel and Valentino were distinctive for their mystery and drama, died in a New York hospital October 24, her agents, Marek and Associates, confirmed. The cause of death was lung cancer.

Throughout her career, Turbeville created fashion, travel and architectural images that were “romantic, feminine, elegant, unconventional, dreamy,” as Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani wrote in the 2011 book Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures (published by Rizzoli).  “I like to think atmosphere is the main thing about my pictures,” Turbeville wrote.

For  more about Turbeville, read her full obituary, now in the news section on PDNOnline.

** Photo: Ballerina Vera Arbuzov, in an image from Studio St. Petersburg by Deborah Turbeville, published by Bulfinch Press in 1997. Photo © Deborah Turbeville, courtesy of Marek and Associates

October 3rd, 2013

Obituary: Photographer Bill Eppridge, LIFE Photographer, Sixties Chronicler, Age 75

© Bill Eppridge. Courtesy Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

© Bill Eppridge. Courtesy Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Bill Eppridge, who photographed Robert Kennedy’s campaign and assassination, The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Woodstock and countless other major stories for LIFE Magazine, Sports Illustrated and other publications,  died early this morning of complications from an infection. He was 75. Eppridge’s death was confirmed by Michelle Monroe of Monroe Gallery, which represents Eppridge’s work exclusively.

During his 50-year-career, Eppridge photographed many history-making events, but was perhaps most famous for his images that captured the turmoil of the Sixties. One of his most widely seen photos showed presidential candidate Robert Kennedy bleeding on the floor of a hotel kitchen after he was shot, while a panic-stricken hotel busboy cradled his head. In an interview he gave to PDN Edu last year, Eppridge said, “At that point, the moment that gunfire went off, I realized that I was no longer a journalist.” He explained, “I’m a historian.”

To read more, see our obituary of Bill Eppridge on PDNOnline.
PDN will update this story as information about a memorial becomes available.

* Photo above: June 5, 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his wife Ethel (Standing at the podium in the Ambassador Hotel Ballroom. Kennedy was just finishing his California primary victory speech and was moments away from walking into the kitchen where he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan.) Photo © Bill Eppridge. Courtesy Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

June 27th, 2013

Obituary: Fine-Art Photographer Sarah Charlesworth, 66

© Sarah Charlesworth

“Carnival Ball, 2011″ from “Available Light.” © Sarah Charlesworth/courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC.

 

Sarah Charlesworth, a fine-art photographer, teacher and member of The Pictures Generation, died on June 26 in Falls Village, Connecticut, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 66 years old.

Charlesworth was born in East Orange, New Jersey, and graduated from Barnard College in 1969 with a Bachelor of Arts in art history. She cofounded the nonprofit art magazine BOMB in 1981, and her work was featured on the cover of its launch issue. She began teaching art and photography in 1983, and has regularly instructed classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Rhode Island School of Design and New York University. Recently, she was appointed a lecturer at Princeton University.

The Baldwin Gallery in Aspen, Colorado, along with the Susan Inglett Gallery in New York City and the Margo Leavin Gallery in Los Angeles, represented Charlesworth in the United States; the Galerie Tanit represented her in Munich. In her current solo show, “Available Light,” which opened at the Baldwin Gallery on June 21, Charlesworth used the sunlight from her studio window and objects, like a crystal ball, a bowl and prisms, to add an element of mystery and illusion to her conceptual, still-life photographs.

Kiki Jai Raj, an associate from the Baldwin Gallery, wrote in an e-mail: “[Charlesworth’s] work, has always embodied, for me, a formal elegance that for all its austerity illuminated the spiritual edge of the great beauty and purity of the scientific properties of light and form in our universe.”

In an Arts & Culture article published in 1999, the Boston Herald noted that Charlesworth’s images “challenge the mind and seduce the eye at the same time.” Her work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions at many notable institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of Arts.

Charlesworth is survived by Lucy Poe and Nick Poe, her two children with filmmaker Amos Poe.

June 26th, 2013

Obituary: Photographer Bert Stern, Creator of Marilyn Monroe’s “Last Sitting,” 83

© Schirmer-Mosel/photo by Bert Stern

© Schirmer-Mosel/photo by Bert Stern

Bert Stern, the celebrity and fashion photographer best known for the 1962 photo shoot with Marilyn Monroe known as “The Last Sitting,” died at home in New York City on June 25, The New York Times reports. He was 83.

Born in New York City in 1929, Stern went to work in 1946 at Look magazine as an assistant to art director Hershel Bramson. While at Look, he became friends with Stanley Kubrick, who was then a photographer at the magazine. From 1949 to 1951, Stern was the art director at Mayfair magazine, then he went to work at the ad agency LC Gumbiner. In an interview with  T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Stern explained that it was during his work art directing ad campaigns that he first began shooting his own photos. He opened his own studio in 1954.

His friend Kubrick hired him to take stills for his movie, Lolita, released in 1962. That same year, Stern spent three days on assignment for Vogue photographing actress Marilyn Monroe in a suite he rented at the Bel Air Hotel. During the sessions, Monroe wears little more than a scarf, a necklace and some bed sheets, burrowing in bed sheets. In an interview earlier this year, Stern recalled, “‘She picked up this scarf, looked through it, and it was transparent, she could see me. She understood right away, and said: ‘You want to do nudes.’ And I said, ‘Well that’s a good idea.’” Monroe died a few weeks after the session. Several of the images were published in Eros magazine.

In 1982, Stern published his photos, outtakes and contact sheets from the session as a book, Marilyn Monroe: The Complete Last Sitting (published by Schirmer/Mosel).

His editorial and commercial clients included Vogue, Life, Glamour, IBM, Noxema and Revlon. His subjects included Elizabeth Taylor, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy, Iman and Drew Barrymore.

Stern was the subject of a documentary released this spring, Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man, in which he candidly discussed how his affairs with women he photographed contributed to the break up of his marriage to the ballerina Allegra Kent. The documentary was directed by Shannah Laumeister, who first posed for Stern when she was 13.

Stern’s photographs have been exhibited at Staley-Wise Gallery in New York and many galleries worldwide. Stern also co-directed the documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. In 2006, the Art Directors Club inducted Stern into its Hall of Fame.

June 12th, 2013

Abigail Heyman on Women, Photography, and Being a Women Photographer

butcherbakercabinetmakerheymanIn her obituary, photojournalist Abigail Heyman, who died May 28, was remembered for her pioneering work on the changing roles of women.

She produced her landmark books  Growing Up Female and Butcher, Baker, Cabinetmaker in the 1970s, a time when artists, academics and social scientists were still being told that devoting time and attention to so-called women’s issues could be a career killer.

I found an interview with Heyman in the 1994 book Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism, by the legendary photo editor Howard Chapnick. Chapnick interviewed Heyman and other women photojournalists, including Susan Meiselas, Lori Grinker and Donna Ferrato about their work and the discrimination they faced. Heyman’s answers were direct, honest, illuminating and smart.

Here’s are brief excerpts from the interview:

  Q: Is it difficult for people to get past the stereotypes of women only as fashion, portrait, or social happening photographers?
  Heyman: Is that like being just a housewife? That is, should we feel embarrassed about not being interested in “more important things” that would matter to men? I do a lot of work about social events that I think are deeply important. I don’t feel stereotyped in that. I often feel treated as though what I am doing is unimportant to a male oriented world, which of course, includes women.
  Q: Are women photographers more inclined to choose different subjects to photograph than men?
  Heyman: Yes, but that has been severely tempered by their knowing that, to be successful, they have to photograph the subjects that men think are important. Being a woman influenced my ideas about what I wanted to photograph. My interest in women’s issues, in family issues, in social relationships came out of my experience of growing up as a female. I instinctively incorporated what has recently in the psychological field become known as “women’s values” and those are deeply my values. The fact that those stories have been considered unimportant by a male-dominated society, of which photojournalism is only one small part, is the discrimination I feel, not the fact that I only receive assignments to photograph these issues.

Here’s a quote from the interview that made me laugh out loud. It was a laugh of recognition. I suspect women in any field will know what Heyman was talking about here.

  Q: Do you think that some women use their sexuality to gain access?
  Heyman. Yes. And so do men. Women flirting to gain access are called “using their sexuality to gain greater access,” while men flirting to get access are called “charming.” I think it was an early feeling I had that I wanted to avoid accusation so badly that I never learned how to flirt or be charming.

Related article:

Obituary: Photojournalist Abigail Heyman, Documenter of Women’s Changing Roles, 70

March 7th, 2013

Love Poem for Rémi Ochlik, the Late Photojournalist

©Lucas Dolega

©Lucas Dolega

Obituaries of photojournalists killed while covering conflicts reduce their lives to bare facts: where they are from, what stories they covered and for whom, and how they died. Often left out are the details of their personal lives, and the sense of loss to the people they leave behind.

But a moving portrait of Rémi Ochlik, who died on February 22, 2012 while covering the uprising in Syria, recently appeared online in the form of a poem called “Love letter to Rémi Ochlik.” Written by his girlfriend, Emilie Blachère, it conveys something of the person Ochlik was, what inspired him, and how he loved.

Blachère ended up reading the poem aloud for a BBC broadcast. It is a reading that cuts to the heart, and it’s worth sticking with it to the end: Even the BBC announcer who introduced the poem took several seconds to compose himself when Blachère finished reading.

Related:
Photographer Rémi Ochlik Killed in Homs, Syria

February 25th, 2013

Obituary: Sports and Portrait Photographer Ozzie Sweet, 94

Ozzie Sweet, whose photographs have appeared on approximately 1,800 magazine covers, died on Wednesday, February 20, according to an obituary in The New York Times. He was 94 years old.

Sweet started taking photographs after joining the Air Force at the start of World War II, and his “war-time” images frequently landed on the cover of Newsweek—despite the fact that some of them were staged. A 2001 interview with SeacoastOnline noted that Sweet “hate[s] to use the word ‘faked,’” when describing his images and instead said that his shots are “carefully planned and staged.”

After the war, the self-described “photo illustrator” photographed a number of notable subjects including Albert Einstein, Grace Kelly, Joe DiMaggio, John Wayne, Mickey Mantle and Ernest Hemingway, for publications like TIME, Sport, Saturday Evening Post, Ebony, Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated and Look. He later became known for his sports photography and co-authored two books on baseball: Mickey Mantle: The Yankee Years: The Classic Photography of Ozzie Sweet and The Boys of Spring. In 2005 he won a Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sports Photography.

Read his full obituary at www.nytimes.com.

January 23rd, 2013

Obituary: Architectural Photographer Philip Beaurline, 59

Philip Beaurline, an architectural photographer based in Charlottesville, Virginia, died January 18 from complications from the flu. He was 59, his obituary in the Charlottesville Daily Progress reports.

Born in Davenport, Iowa, Beaurline graduated from Grinnell College. He held a variety of jobs –as carpenter, blacksmith and bricklayer, among other occupations–before he took his first photography assignment in 1987, shooting for a high school friend who created custom millwork for architects and builders. A self-taught photographer, Beaurline began shooting for his friend’s architectural clients, and his career was launched. He opened Beaurline Photography in Charlottesville, and was a long-time member of the Central Virginia chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).

His images of architecture in Oaxaca, Mexico, were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Virginia Society of the American Institutes of Architects in Richmond in 1997 and his work was included in the 2003 “Green Architecture” exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. He also exhibited his work on the landscapes and historic architecture of Mexico locally.

He is survived by his wife, Marie; his son, Anders; and his sister Erica Mikula of Florida. Information on memorials can be found here.