In the mid late 1970′s, when life was both terrible and wonderful with alternating breaths, something magical happened to me.
I was an emotional wreck unable to relax or find peace. My father had died unexpectedly; leaving me emotionally abandoned without his power, financially struggling to survive, married with a young child, who needed his father as much as I needed mine.
Although I was surrounded by friends and my new family, unfortunately I felt alone, needing companionship and love, but unable to feel much of anything except a free-floating anxiety and a total overwhelming hypochondria. I did though never loose my ability to laugh.
So with this terrible mix of angst, and moments of happiness, I struggled with the unsettling and insecure life of being a photographer. I had no support either financially or emotionally from my side of the family, but I did have support from my wife who never stopped believing in me, and with her support which I will never stop being thankful for, I began to allow myself to fill my very soul with the idea (that I strongly believed intellectually) that I was a photographer of some worth.
Ok, enough of this lets get on with the story or I won’t finish it this month.
Somewhere in the 1970′s I went to Arthur Miller’s (the playwright) house with my in-laws. While there I met his wife, Inge Morath who was an Austrian born photographer, who was a member of Magnum. For those who don’t know, Magnum at the time was a famous photography co-operative made up of legendary photographers (Cartier-Bresson, Gene Smith, Elliot Erwitt, Bruce Davidson, etc.)
While Arthur Miller was busy talking to my in-laws, Inge invited me to her studio, and we began to talk. She showed me her work, and a mock-up of a new book she was working on with her husband with photographs and text of their friends and acquaintances. Over the next months I saw her a few times more and ultimately had an opportunity to show her my work. She immediately seemed interested, and very graciously told me that I should meet Jerry Rosencrantz, who ran the Magnum library.
In the midst of all our conversations, Inge said to me once, something that I have never forgotten. It was a conversation like many today, about how competitive the small photographic market was. In the midst of this conversation she said to me, “Don’t worry, if you are good there is always room.” This statement has always remained with me, even in my worst moments and with all my fits of despair which comes with being a photographer.
Inge arranged a meeting with Jerry Rosencrantz, who wielded great power at Magnum, running the archives, the library, and overall coordinator for a bunch of romantic, uncontrollable photographer’s from around the world.
So upon meeting Jerry, he immediately took my work without uttering a word, and with the amazing speed of an Arab sheshbesh player, rifled through my work.
After looking at all my work, which took a total of 30 seconds, faster than my heart could even skip its first beat, he shook my hand, introduced himself, smiled and started to ask me who I was and where I’ve been.
I told him I was living a relatively quiet life in Connecticut, teaching and trying to survive. He told me, “Welcome to Magnum.” And from that moment on became my supporter and confidant.
Jerry told me it was a long process to become a full member of Magnum, but there was a way to begin the process. They had just started a program where on occasion they would accept a few young photographers and make them contributing associates, which meant they could participate in the organization, sell their work in the Magnum library, attend meetings (but have no voting power) and slowly get to meet all the other members so they could vote on your full approval into the society. I was told this was a long process.
Wow, what a dream come true. All the legends of photography that I loved were there. The library contained original prints of everyone, which I sifted through endlessly. Now I just needed to meet all the members, and convince them I was worthy of full status. This was easier said than done. Well at least I had Inge and Jerry on my side, which was a start.
So with this I began but where I ended up is a sad, uncomfortable and embarrassing ending to a wonderful beginning. Stay tuned.
P.S. I want to thank everyone for their heartfelt comments. I can’t tell you how touched I was by your words. It seems like without exception, the consensus is to continue. So I will try my best to live up to your support. Thank you again for all your kind words. Please keep reading.