A few weeks ago I was reminiscing about the times in 1968 when my business partner Jim Houghton and I did photographic assignments for Time-Life Books, and especially about our photo essay on the power brokers, movers and shakers in Washington D.C. Completed over a period of several days, it covered no fewer than 63 individuals spread over some 13 pages. This book, The District of Columbia — The Seat of Government, and another one that we did on the Middle Atlantic States were part of the TIME-LIFE Library of America series. Since I haven't seen these books, or even any of the photos, in about 35 years, I did a Google search and found a used copy on Amazon for a mere $4. Here's the story behind it:
Photos above are of, left to right, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Speaker of the House John McCormack, and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford.
For our first book in in the Time-Life Library of America series, on the Middle Atlantic States, we opted to use a large 8x10 view camera outdoors, emulating the work of Richard Avedon — whom both of us had assisted a few years earlier. This time, however, we chose to use handheld Mamiyaflex TLR cameras loaded with 120 Tri-X film, and portable strobe lights. Since this equipment was small, instead of driving we flew down on the wonderful old Eastern Shuttle, which required no reservations, used old Elektra turboprops, and left from LaGuardia Airport in New York. At Washington National Airport we rented a car, drove to a Holiday Inn in Arlington VA, and then set off for the first sitting in the Capitol Office buildings. This was of the Agricultural Committee, who claimed that this was the only time ever that every member showed up!
The next day we were to work in the Capitol Building itself, so we drove there and looked for a place to park. The most convenient spot was right under the Capitol steps, from which a door led to where we were going. I doubt if you could get away with this today, what with security precautions, but no one bothered us and we left the car there until late afternoon. The most memorable session that day was of the House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford, who engaged me in a long conversation about building a home darkroom. This was before he became President.
Security was also rather lax at the White House, where we drove right in and parked at the door to the West Wing. A guard did check our papers, but never inspected the vehicle or its contents. Actually, President Johnson was out of town at the time, and we were to photograph his special assistant, Joseph Califano, who was called the "Deputy President for Domestic Affairs" by the New York Times. After we finished, he showed us into the Oval Office for a quick look around. I was sorely tempted to liberate a souvenir, but didn't.
Photos on the right are of Presidential Special Assistant Joseph Califano and his staff.
Now I'm interested in finding the other book in the series, as well as the one we did for Time-Life on gardening.
Photos and book text copyright © 1968 Time Inc., used non-commercially under Fair Use Doctrine to illustrate my story.
Blog text copyright © 2010 by Earl Steinbicker
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
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