Happy Birthday, Arnold! You would've been 93 today, and your warm spirit touched so many people's lives, including my own.
For those of you who didn't have the privilege of meeting or knowing about Arnold Newman, he was none other than one of the best portrait photographers of the 20th century. Arnold loved the humility that people shared, especially when times were tough and the underdog prevailed. In addition to being a humanitarian with real class, Arnold was a dazzling, yet low-key teacher.
"We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds." --Arnold Newman
I met Arnold Newman in 1987, when as a young man, I took a photography workshop with him at the Maine Photographic Workshops. It was when I was just starting to find my own way with photography and was trying to figure things out, looking for answers. Even though it was only a week with him with a small group of photographers, I discovered some very important things about myself and came to some self-realizations about some latent strengths that I didn't even realize I possessed.
Spending a week with Newman was phenomenal. The workshops were all about being able to spend time making new work, interacting with like-minded photographers, and getting critical feedback from a master. The number one characteristic that I learned about myself at the workshop was that I had the latent ability to give my fellow students insightful and inspiring feedback about their own work. All of this seemed to unfold by itself at Newman's workshop, as if I were a witness on the sidelines, and I was just as taken aback as everyone else with my abilities. It's where I learned that it takes a special kind of person to teach photography and I also had one of the best right in front of me.
At any rate, it was a humbling experience and was one of my best weeks ever as a photographer. For the first time, I blossomed as someone who could help other photographers with their work, and have Newman to thank for helping me find my gifts. Thank you Mr. Newman, and here's to you.
Newman told me to just keep pushing ahead - it should not (be) long to get there... I've taken his advice to heart and never stopped pushing, and am still trying to figure stuff out, by the way.
It strikes me that when it comes to photography and life, we never reach where we want to be by ourselves. It got me to thinking about photographic lineage, and how we always have special people along the way who have helped us in some manner. There is no such thing as a self-made photographer, that is a complete myth. Newman had a long list of photographers who had influenced and helped him along the way, so a photographic lineage was something that he acknowledged too. All photographers have branches of photographic roots going in all directions.
As someone who learned photography from both Brooks Institute and the University of New Mexico's Graduate School of Fine Arts, I think I have a longer list than usual, and am not shy about crediting all of the very giving people from this journey. Arnold Newman was a natural teacher and loved sharing not only his knowledge about all things photographic, but also the more rarefied parts of life that had to do with humility, giving, and having a heartfelt love of humanity in general.
Happy Birthday Arnold, you were the gift to the world, we miss you, and we'll never forget you.
Story by Larry McNeil, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.