Terry Falk was my assistant, printer, and friend for many years.
We first met when we were both young; me as his teacher, and he as one of the smartest students of photography I have ever met. He is a true New Englander, spare, refined, born on the Connecticut coast, raised on the water, but with a complicated and somewhat tormented life story, like us all.
His older brother was the darling of the family. Education and praise were lavished on him while Terry a non-athletic loner, who was interested in photography, was more or less ignored. But to me like many things in life, the true gem of the family was left to tarnish and was somewhat forgotten.
As I mentioned I came into Terry’s life while he was in college, and for over 20 years he assisted me, printed my work, and together we had many wonderful adventures as we traveled around the world together.
But Terry’s best and most endearing quality to me, was his sense of humor and loyalty. Together we laughed our way through our adventures. It is this part of my life that I miss greatly. I miss Terry’s companionship and his always-brilliant insight into the state of photography and its participants.
In the early 80′s when we really got humming, Terry and I would travel together on assignment to photograph the chieftains of business. In those days I shot with a small 35mm Leica rangefinder, dress in a coat and tie, with a few rolls of film in my pockets, no lights and only one assistant. We would travel together, both wearing our ties and jackets, looking both like tourists, but always having a lot of fun.
I can think of at least two occasions when Terry saved my life. Once in London as I was taking a picture, I was so oblivious to the traffic, I almost walked right into an oncoming car, and he quickly pulled me back to safety. The other, on top of a building in Paris where I almost fell off the ledge, only to be saved at the last minute by Terry’s quick hands.
After the shoots we would celebrate with a beautiful lunch or dinner and laughed at all the crazy places and adventures we had gotten into that day.
In those days I began to experiment. Italian and Flemish Renaissance painting had always influenced me. Often there would be a layering of subjects. The background would always compliment the foreground. The composition was perfect and figures were placed as balancing acts to the main subject. I noticed there was often a secondary figure in the background. I loved this. It added complexity and most of all balance to the composition. Since I was shooting with a horizontal format (unlike the square format I use mostly today) I found I often needed something to balance the composition in the frame. My images always felt like they needed more. I wanted to add more complexity, to layer them, to always have some hidden surprise. With this need, along came Terry. On the shoots it usually was the subject (usually a male CEO), Terry and myself. We all looked like the Bobbsey Twins.
On more and more occasions I would feel like something was missing and I would use Terry as a model in the background. This almost became a standing joke, because he always knew what I was looking for and was wise and intelligent enough to give it to me.
He knew my work better than anyone alive, and it always showed in the photographs. To this day, some 25 years later, I still often place figures throughout the frame, but it was Terry who initiated this.
It is kind of fitting that this wise soul would be in my pictures. He taught me a great deal and he seemed to appreciate me and my work more than almost anyone since. Even though he often was in the background, he is often in the foreground of my thoughts.