FIRST MONTHS ON THE JOB
Fall 1952, New York City. Having just started my job as an assistant to the famous photographer Richard Avedon, I soon realized how unsophisticated this boy from Allentown, Pennsylvania really was. My appearance was all wrong, I knew nothing about art, and my knowledge of photography was nowhere near their level. So I had to learn. The first problem was soon fixed with a visit to Brooks Brothers (the Ivy League look was all the rage at the time), but the second was more difficult. The boss suggested that I take evening courses in art history so I would know a Picasso from a Rembrandt. Thus began a series of non-credit courses at New York University, covering both art and philosophy.
My experiences in photography had been limited to 35mm cameras, plus the 4 x 5 Speed Graphic that belonged to the high school. Avedon did nearly all of his fashion and commercial work with an 8 x 10 Deardorff, and his personality portraits with a Rolleiflex TLR. He had no use for 35mm.
The Rollei I could cope with, and soon acquired one myself. But that massive wooden Deardorff was intimidating. That's me with the monster on the left. I had to learn how to put those large sheets of film in the holders, how to whip these in and out of the camera as fast as he could shoot, and how to then unload the films into special processing tanks — in total darkness, of course. And then dry and number the negatives, and make contact prints. Enlargements were left to the senior staff, as no one on Earth was fussier about his finish prints.
But we had a lot of fun, too. Location shots were a joy, especially outdoors where I didn't have to lug lights along. And these were usually done with the much smaller Rollei TLR cameras. Here I watch as he works on a puzzle while the model, some kid, and the stylist wait. This is at a horse farm in Westchester County.