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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed photography since I was a youngster. This in turn is the reason that my picture taking has spanned more than five decades.

I categorize the photos that I take into one of two “camps” – the snapshots and the memorable photos.

This article is the another in a series of articles that I’ve called “About this photo” to draw attention to a few of those memorable photos that may be hiding in a shoebox or on your hard drive.

Unlike some people who have photographic memories, I instead have memories about certain photographs.

Most of these special photographs were taken long, long ago. They are indelible and remain riveted in my mind. And so, in this “About this photo” series, I’d like to key in on one of these unforgettable photographs to bring you back to the time and circumstances under which it was taken.


 

Taken late summer 1970, this is a photo of my girlfriend along Lake Michigan. We spent many weekends at this beach that summer.

Usually the beach was very crowded, but on this cloudy and windy day, we had the run of the sand and shore to ourselves.

The red lighthouse was a familiar site to anyone who knows this area and remains a key attraction to the beach today. It’s a lucky coincidence that my girlfriend’s jacket was about the same shade of red as the lighthouse.

The reason that this photo is etched in my mind is that I’ve been married to this lovely lady for 50 years now.



 

Now let’s skip forward some 40+ years.

This photo was taken a few summers ago. Here we have two young girls having fun at the same location on Lake Michigan.

You can see the same red lighthouse along the water albeit at a slightly different angle.

These are two of our young grandchildren. As we were walking along the beach I was reminded of the 1970 photograph when we approached the red lighthouse.

I asked the two girls to pose on the bench in the foreground. This photo captures the familiar feelings of warmth and affection that has somehow remained with me for more than 50 years.


Along the way, I’ve taken a huge number of snapshots. However, the number of memorable photos that I’ve taken is far smaller. Yet it’s the memorable ones that have a magical ability to steer emotions, feelings and pleasure into our minds, even years later. Simply amazing.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

NOTE: This is a reprint and was originally written in 2005.
I remember very clearly when Dad would pull out his large twin lens reflex camera, usually around a holiday, birthday or family event. He would lower his head and look into the lens hood while his hand would reach down to grasp the knurled knob on the camera’s side. I would see the bellows move back and forth as he zeroed in on his focus. Then he’d snap and the shot would be done. We’d wait weeks, sometimes months, to see the results. After all, a full roll of film had room for 12 negatives!
When the film was finally developed, we were thrilled to see the results. Here are two photos, one from the 40’s and another from the 50s, but they both share the same “feel” – the subjects are dressed up for a special occasion, some of them are posed comfortably and others more stiffly, but always in full black and white.

Aunt Emma, Aunt Millie and Mom circa 1940

I took this family picture as a youth circa 1957
In the 50’s, color photos were reserved only for special occasions – owing to the higher expense. While Dad sometimes shot color, the cost of the film and print processing was too extravagant for normal use. But for those special times when he did use color, he would send the exposed film to one of the discount processing services to save money. The downside: developing by mail took an additional week to complete.
I cut my teeth on Dad’s older twin lens reflex (TLR) and a Polaroid Swinger. Using the twin lens reflex was an exercise in patience. With only twelve exposures to a roll of 120 film, you made sure that you had a good shot before you released the shutter. With the Swinger, it was a blast to see instant photography. With today’s digital we’ve come full circle; we have another form of instant photography again.
As a youngster with sparse earnings, I made do with Dad’s second TLR and the Swinger that served as my equipment. I came into luck when Uncle Tom, who was in the Air Force at the time, agreed to buy a camera for me at a huge discount on the Air Force Base PX. This became a lesson in patience: I’d wait a whole year until he returned from service overseas to get my hands on a state of the art Canonflex RM SLR camera.
In the mean time, I learned to develop film and make my own prints. A small corner in the basement became my darkroom. I covered the windows to keep out the light, fashioned a processing area from discarded planks of wood and used Mom’s washroom sink to provide water for the chemicals. I spent many nights mixing developer, stop bath and fixer; processing film and making black and white prints. I started with a basic Testrite enlarger and later graduated to a fancy Durst 606 enlarger with a built-in color filter drawer. I was so immersed into this hobby that soon I learned to make my own color prints. It would take take three hours of preparation to make the first color “test” print and perhaps six hours to get an acceptable “final” color print. I can hardly believe that I had so much patience back then.
To further my interest, something wonderful happened. Mom arranged for me to get a part time job with John Margotta, her past schoolmate who was now a professional photographer. For three years, after school I would head to John’s studio to learn the photography business. In the studio I was his assistant. I would hold lights and set up equipment for weddings, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, birthdays, modeling shoots, funerals (yes, funerals) and more. I learned about lighting techniques, portrait techniques, posing techniques, action techniques, view camera technqiues and wedding cake cutting techniques too. And of course John taught me many darkroom techniques. I used most of my earnings to purchase more equipment.
My photographic education continued. During high school I proudly served on the yearbook staff as one of the three student photographers with access to sporting and entertainment events. In the following examples, you’ll see that we continued taking black and white photos since the cost of color was prohibitive at the time.

The friendly cheerleading squad of
New Rochelle High School circa 1967

Motown’s Four Tops performing
at New Rochelle High School circa 1966
During my college years, I completed my formal photo training by working at two different high end processing labs servicing the Madison Ave advertising agencies. In the 60’s, a process called “dye transfer” was used to make photographic reproductions for the high quality magazines like Vogue and Harper. Here is where I learned processing from the ground up: making color separations from original transparencies for printing using cyan, magenta and yellow dyes. Despite commuting between my home in New Rochelle and the photo labs in New York City and the long working hours, I thoroughly enjoyed the job as I continued to learn different aspects of photography.
At college I taught at the photography club and introduced my girlfriend to darkroom techniques. By the way, Kris is now my wife and hates the darkroom. I was a staff photographer for several university organizations and earned extra cash by photographing fraternity and sorority events.
Following college, Kris and I were married and shortly thereafter, photography took a backseat to raising a family, putting bread on the table and becoming involved in the software industry. Although I took and accumulated thousands of photos during this period, the bulk of these were of family faces and of the scenic vacation variety.
Skip forward 30 years to the mid-1990s. My company Abacus, was involved with flight simulation software and I’m taking more and more aviation related photos. I now find myself dabbling in the new world of digital photography. The stars are finally aligned and I’m ready to marry two of my long time interests: photography and aviation. With digital, the equipment and processing techniques are radically different from conventional film photography.
Several years ago, I received a surprise email from John Margotta, my photography mentor from the 1960s. I was happy to hear that at an age of 80+, he’s still immersed in photography. He’s produced some artistic renditions of still life using his “Photoshop-equipped darkroom”. His approach to photography is a lesson that hi-tech isn’t reserved only for the young.
Lucikly, I’m finding that most of the basics that I started learning 50+ years ago are still relevant. After all of these years, I remain very excited and passionate about my love of photography.

Dad and World War II

This article is the another in a series of articles that I’ve called “About this photo” to draw attention to a few of those memorable photos that may be hiding in a shoebox or on your hard drive.

Shortly after World War II broke out, a group of U.S. military recruiters visited New York City’s Chinatown. They were forming an all-Chinese battalion to serve in the China, Burma, India theater. Dad was among the hundreds of recruits who volunteered (including three other men who would later become his brothers-in-law after the war).

Of course, Dad told us many stories about his early life. One of his stories took place during their advanced training at Camp Crowder, Missouri. Tired of eating the army-supplied mess, he and a few of the soldiers went into the nearby town to buy fresh poultry and groceries to prepare their own meals. Some of the townspeople were taken aback by these Chinese soldiers marching into town – they thought they were being invaded by the Japanese!

Soon they traveled by train to the West Coast for deployment to the Asian front. Dad said that the military was experimenting with a new transportation method. Instead of sending groups of ships in convoys, they were using unescorted liberty ships to stealthily avoid the Japanese navy. Their battalion was placed on one of three liberty ships which would leave Wilmington, CA bound for Calcutta, India a few days apart. Dad was on the second ship, the SS David Gaillard. As it turned out, the first and third ship were torpedoed by Japanese submarines and never made it to India.

 

As part of the 987th Special Signal Operations Company, they were to travel from Calcutta to Kunming, China to support General Clair Chennault and his Fourteenth Air Force “Flying Tigers”. To reach Kunming they would travel on roads though the Himalayas.

On several occasions Dad would mention the Burma Road on which the soldiers traveled to cross the mountains. He described the roads as being so steep, treacherous and narrow that if one of the vehicles became disabled they would have to push it over the cliffs so that the other vehicles could pass. Dad’s description has remained in my mind for many decades.

Last week I unexpectedly received an email from a friend from my high school days. I remembered that Ann’s father was the the noted photographer Arthur Rothstein who had a long and distinguished career as a photojournalist, editor and director of photography, teacher and mentor. His iconic images of the rural America are well-known. Annie’s email had me browsing through her dad’s collection where I stumbled across a group of photos in which he documented the war effort in the China, Burma, India theater. His photo perfectly captures the image that Dad had verbally drawn in my mind for so many years. Seeing the stark road snaking its way up the mountain was enough of an impetus for me to write this story. Thanks to Annie and many thanks to her father.

 

Like most other World War II military units, the Fourteenth Air Force has held many reunions for their members. The 55th Anniversary Reunion was held in 1997 and included the veterans that served in the China, Burma, India theater during World War II.

In the reunion program guide, I found this family photo. These four standing men are my father and his three brothers-in-law whom I referred to earlier. They are my uncles having married three of my mother’s sisters. And all four of served as part of the CBI theater.

This short story illustrates the reason that photographs matter to me. These two photos are valued keepsakes.

There’s a wonderful story behind many photographs. It’s not just the image, it’s the memories and emotions that accompany the image that matter.

 

To see Arthur Rothstein’s work, please visit his archives.

 

Written by Arnie Lee

 

 


Baby Boomers

14th April 2012

I’m a baby boomer. I was born after my father, like millions of other soldiers, returned from serving in World War II. Not long after, he married my mother and they started their family. My wife is also a baby boomer and her family was started similarly.

The census bureau says that children born between 1946 and 1964 are considered baby boomers. Since I was born in 1949, I suppose that I’m at the leading edge of the baby boom generation.

Last week as I was returning from a trip to the West Coast, I picked up a copy of the Sunday Los Angeles Times.

I was literally stunned to read Tom Petruno’s article in the business section who presents this amazing fact: “every 24 hours for the next 19 years an average of 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65”*.


a baby boomer with daughter and grandchildren

Wow. Think about that number: 10,000 individuals every day for 19 consecutive years. Grab your calculator and do the math and you’ll see that 69 million of us will reach retirement age between now and 2030. Are any of you surprised by this fact?

Mr. Petruno’s article centered around the havoc that might ensue as retirees unload their stock market holdings. He wonders what would happen to the share prices if there aren’t enough buyers to purchase their shares. While the article is an interesting read, I’m thinking of other implications that such a large cohort will place on our nation.

My preference is to shy away from public discussions of politics and social welfare. So please excuse me while I skip over any serious political and social issues confronting our aging population and move on.

So how does this discussion fit into Stay Focused?

I’ll start with a local camera club to which I belong. It’s a rather large club with about 100 members. I’d have to guess that half of the members are baby boomers or older. This is quite a large proportion. These folks have the time to spend on their photography hobby (or profession). The time is well spent judging by the impressive results. You might think that the group is more “classic” – shooting landscapes and portraits. But the artistic side is just as evident as we regularly see in the creative competitions. And from all indications, the older generation has had no trouble making the transition from film to digital.

As a frequent visitor of many of our national parks, I’ve noticed that other older people are following me to some of these great sites. Rather than the greening of the national parks, there’s a trend to the “greying.” And of course every vistior comes into a park with a camera ready to record their memories.

Anyway, there’s a lot of us older people with seemingly more and more time on our hands. Maybe it’s time to start that business that I’ve dreamed of for so very long: “Photo Tour Guide to Yellowstone”.

Happy Shooting.

*****

Written by Arnie Lee

* from the Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2012.