AN EARLY START IN PHOTOGRAPHY leads to a big break.
Long before I ever thought of travel or publishing, I developed an interest in photography, which led to becoming an assistant to one of the world's greatest photographers. So, to start at the beginning:
Although I had a curiosity about cameras early on (photo, left, 1939), capturing images and splashing about in smelly darkroom chemicals really became my passion at the tender age of 12 (1946). Right after World War II ended my dad fulfilled a long-deferred dream of owning a real 35mm camera, of a type that was next to impossible to find during the conflict as most were made in the enemy country. As a result, I acquired his old "Baby Brownie Special," a depression-era Bakelite gem that used 127 Verichrome film. It soon dawned on me that the real fun was in the darkroom, so I mowed a lot of lawns in order to purchase a "Marvel" developing kit from Sears. Out of cardboard and sticks I built a more-or-less light-tight room in the basement and processed my first film. Magic!
A year later I was given a somewhat better camera, a "Meteor" (photo, right) that used 120 film and had simple adjustments for exposure. Then, for passing the ninth grade my parents presented me with what I really hungered for, a 35mm "Bolsey" camera that had the full range of adjustments and that lasted me all the way through high school. I still have it, although it no longer functions owing to my little brother's interest in astronomy. He tried to take pictures of the sun through a telescope with it, burning a big hole through the shutter. Richie, if you're reading this, you still owe me a camera!
In high school I acted as a school photographer, covering football, basketball, and wrestling events with their Speed Graphic, a huge and cumbersome monstrosity that used 4"x5" cut film (that's me with it, photo left, circa 1950). But I learned a lot, enough in fact to embark on a professional career.
In the next installment I'll tell you how — at the age of 18 — I baceme an assistant to Richard Avedon, one of the foremost photographers of the 20th century. And how that started me on a lifetime of world travel.