Wednesday, September 26, 2012

James Baldwin

I was still living in London in the late 1970s when Robert Priest rang me from Esquire in New York to ask if I would photograph James Baldwin. I knew that he lived in France and it is always a thrill to be asked to go somewhere else to photograph a writer besides a cold house in Hampstead or a cluttered flat in Earl's Court. This was particularly nice because Baldwin lived in Saint-Paul-de-Vence where I had  been once before and dined at La Colombe D'Or, one of the most attractive restaurants anywhere. 

I drove into the main square of Saint-Paul-de-Vence the evening before I was due to take his picture. As I past a café I noticed sitting at a table facing the street a black man. He was surrounded by five white young ladies all leaning forward towards him wide eyed as he spoke. I recognized the man almost at once as James Baldwin. The girls were young enough to be college students. When I saw him the next day I asked him about it and he said that yes indeed they were American college students. He said he liked that particular café and went there often. The group spotted him and he invited them to sit with him.

We spoke little during my time with him as is often the case when I photograph people. I concentrate on how to arrange the scene beside and behind my subject and where to place the camera. Mostly I allow people to compose themselves, with an occasional, "Just a little to your left...yes, that's it, there." And if the sitter looks too fixed I move away from the camera or ask a question which usually causes people to re-arrange themselves.

I remember James Baldwin saying that when the revolution came he would be out there in the streets with his carving knife. When Occupy Wall Street takes hold I wonder if it will be like that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


In 1988 I took this photograph of Jackie Mason for Andy Warhol's "Interview." He arrived at my studio with at least one other person followed shortly by the assigned writer accompanied by a friend. I was not told about these people coming to the shoot. Even after I asked if they would very kindly not talk and move away from the area of the studio where I was working they continued to chatter. 

I needed to be alone with my subject so I asked the spectators to  go downstairs please and wait in the very nice coffee shop below. They agreed but my request was reported to the editors who took a dim view of my actions and I was struck from the list of photographers the magazine used. "Just try and write an article with three or four people nattering at your side clanking cups and saucers of coffee," I told the art editor. 

I am telling this tale because I did not hear from "Interview" again until last week when they e-mailed me to ask if they could publish two of my pictures of Stanley Kubrick. The enraged editors, writers and their friends had, of course, long since departed from the magazine. Fabien Baron is now the editorial director. We agreed a price, I wrote some captions and the whole thing was done with much courtesy and ease.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Newburgh: Portrait of a City on NPR

 A young person for Volume II.

Quote from THE picture SHOW, the NPR news blog featuring my book and exhibition:

"But even after 16 years," he says, "the work isn't done." He still goes to Newburgh every week, and requests from young residents (who want to know why he hasn't taken their photos yet) keep his mind on the project.

"I'm thinking of volume two already," he says.

To view THE picture SHOW click here

Monday, September 17, 2012


Sometimes I mind the tame way people hold each other. Here it seems to me that the man is merely lolling around the girl and the girl only has the barest grasp of him, almost as though she's holding just his t-shirt. You can't feel someone the way she is holding him, with her half clenched fist. There is not much lust here. Well, of course there may not have been. I think I will ask them when I see them again. "Are you just friends?" 

Anyway, I have promoted this photograph into my favorites list because of her dress, their matching slimness and his pride (or is it challenge?) — the slightly raised chin.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Newburgh: Portrait of a City, book signing.

Hello and welcome,

I am holding a BOOK SIGNING on Saturday, September 8th at The Ann Street Gallery,

104 Ann Street, Newburgh NY 12550.
Click here to see a selection of photographs from the book,


Best wishes,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Twist

I received this letter not long ago.

"I am a psychologist working at the Coltman Street Day Hospital in Hull❲England❳. Our primary work here is to help older people with a diagnosis of memory loss or dementia. We have excellent facilities here including a large flat screen television we use to flash up various historic photographs of Hull for our clients.

I want to update the images on our running PowerPoint display that we have in the main wait area and saw your website. I wondered if there was a possibility of copying your photograph The Twist on your site so that clients can be stimulated in memory back to their childhoods and persevere their precious memories. Is this something you would consider?"

I wrote back agreeing to his using it. I took the picture in the early 1960s in London at The Lyceum Ballroom for The Weekend Telelgraph.