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1966 GEORGIA O’KEEFFE, Abiquiu, New Mexico.Painter Georgia O’Keeffe tells me she stole her very favorite stone from photographer Eliot Porter.
At Sunday dinner in 1945 my father talked about buying a new camera now that World War II was over. I was eleven-years-old, and suddenly I had a compelling urge to take a picture. We lived in New York City, so I hurried to the corner drugstore to buy a roll of film for the box camera at home. “What size?” the druggist asked. It was my first signal that taking a picture in those days was not as simple as it seemed. I solved the problem, and my father showed me how to develop film in the bathroom. I’ve been hooked ever since.At fifteen, I’d taken pictures of my family and friends and all the neighborhood landmarks. I felt I’d run out of subjects. Then an editor at my school newspaper asked me to photograph the captain of the football team. I walked out on the practice field and asked the big man to kick a ball and realized that with a newspaper in my hip pocket (so-to-speak) I might go anywhere with a purpose and be welcomed.I entered Harvard College in 1952, the same year Henri Cartier-Bresson published The Decisive Moment, his guide to photographic journalism. The book became my bible. Four years later, when I was a senior in college, Life magazine asked me to photograph a cargo ship that had run aground on Cape Cod. The photograph never appeared in the magazine, but I continued a relationship with Life, and I was asked to join its staff in 1961.After Life magazine stopped publishing weekly in 1972, I was instrumental in starting a monthly Life in 1978 and was its picture editor until 1987. All the time, I continued on my own as a photographer eager to entwine the ordinary and the unexpected into photographs that are beautiful and meaningful.I have authored six books about my photographs: Pictures Under Discussion, Georgia O’Keeffe at Ghost Ranch, Celebrating The Negative, As I See It, Age of Silver and Moment By Moment and four others about the general use of photographs in Life magazine.I’m happy to use my i-Phone and a computer today to do what I started doing with a camera and a bathroom. It’s always the case that the shutter opens briefly and lets the camera marry reality to form. That union gives the picture structure and defines the moment that lives on.
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