Posted in Opinion on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008
There are certain clients, galleries, & collectors that have a special place in a long photographic career. LOOK magazine was one. They had their own wonderful staff with Arthur Rothstein, Stanley Kubrick, Jim Karales, John Vachon and other great photographers. So why did they use a freelancer to do a certain project? They understood that each serious photographer has a special voice, and they wanted to match that voice to the story at hand. Usually the work went to a member of the staff, but sometimes a freelance would get the assignment, and so it happened that I was assigned to do an essay in 1957 on Mickey Rooney. He is still going strong and so am I.
Here’s how it worked with LOOK: A staff writer was assigned and would lay out a general plan for the story, making all the arrangements to facilitate the photography. Then the shooting began and writer morphed into a helper, doing whatever was necessary to make sure that the photographer could work without impediments. So far, nothing unusual. What was unusual happened after the shoot. They preferred freelancers to develop, edit and print the story. Then came a meeting with the managing editor (Dan Mich, I think) who would look at the prints, and take a quick look at the contacts. Then it went to the art department for layout. When the layout was completed you received a call from the art director Alan Hurlburt to come up to the office to give your comments on the spread. This was very unusual, and was not just a polite gesture. He really wanted to know if it worked the way you wanted it to work. If it didn’t, changes were made. So, that’s how it was done at LOOK. Oh, another thing… they wanted all rights to the work so that both staff and freelance photographs would be in their archive. That must sound familiar to the photographers working today, but there is a difference..they paid triple the going rate for the additional rights!
When LOOK closed it’s doors, the entire archive was donated to the Library of Congress by the Cowles family where it is being properly archived under Barbara O. Natanson, Head, Reference Section Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Barbara’s note that she could not lend me the negative, but could send me a high res scan of my Mickey Rooney photograph was fine. There was also a mention about it’s being thin and slightly scratched, but I was too excited to care.
So, here’s the picture, it’s 51 years old.