Archive for January, 2009

John Updike, the storyteller, is gone at 76..too young

Posted in Opinion on Thursday, January 29th, 2009


It is always hard to realise that you are older than one of your idols.

John Updike’s New Yorker stories were part of my maturation (fancy term, but correct).  Now he is gone. I never did meet him, but was honored when  The New Yorker chose my Irish Dancehall,The Bronx 1954  to accompany  “The Walk with Elizanne” in the July 7, 2003 issue.

Martin Luther King would have liked this scene- Washington D.C.1995

Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009


When I was invited to Washington in 1995 for the American Politicians Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery (MOMA-Susan Kismaric Curator)  I used my time to hunt for new scenes for my  “Still Movies” project.  I have always believed that intuition is a big part of being a documentary photographer and that is why  I started shooting this bicycle messenger (?) and  professional looking woman who were chatting near the White house.  The last time I had been in Washington was to protest the Vietnam war in 1971.  It was a racially  challenged city  and I think that scene would not have  happened. When they kissed goodbye, I knew it couldn’t have happened.

I was  shooting with a 100mm lens so I was not far from my subjects and I never hide.  When she walked up to me and asked what I would do with those photographs I said “Probably put them in a museum.”   She said “Good” and walked on.  I thought about these two people  yesterday and smiled.

p.s. They are not yet in a museum.


I.D. Photo Waynesburg College 1965

Posted in Media on Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Sometimes I have to see and feel  a print.  This one has been haunting me for years, but last week was the first time I printed it.  I made four copies of this image, and only one had “the magic.”  I ripped up the others. I am satisfied now; I won’t print others.

So, we have “I.D. Waynesburg College 1965 “  printed 14/11/09  by gsz.  1 copy. Reference #4125.

For  information on price, contact me or one of my fine dealers.waynesburg-1965.jpg

Harry & Bess 1954

Posted in Media on Monday, January 19th, 2009


J&J 1960

Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, January 19th, 2009


Back in the dark #1 – 2009

Posted in Opinion on Friday, January 16th, 2009


Alwin Nikolais- Henry St. Settlement Dance Company, NYC 1951      ©George S. Zimbel 1951/2009
Stand up!


Go in the darkroom!

Listen to music!


A Zimbel in the White House ?

Posted in Opinion on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009


“The Goose, Bronx 1958″     Collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The world has been focusing  attention on  the swearing in of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States.  Me too.   But I have  also been reminiscing  about a letter I  received from the White House, dated the last day of Lyndon Johnson’s  presidency   January 20, 1969.

It was  from my friend, Yoichi R. Okamoto, Johnson’s official photographer. Oke was a  career civil  servant, a second or third generation American from Bronxville New York. He became the director of still photography for the U.S. Information Agency under John Kennedy when  that job was not highly politicised.  He knew good photography because he was a good photographer and wanted the world to see the U.S. through the eyes of good photographers.

At one point in his USIA tenure he was requested to  photograph Vice-President  Johnson at some official function, and Mr. Johnson was very impressed with the work…for good reason. When he became president, he requested Okamoto  as  his official photographer. There were rumblings from the Republicans about  Johnson’s ego, but a very distinguished group of U.S. photographers contacted the White House in behalf of Oke and he was confirmed for the job.

I’ll digress here because I want you to know about this guy. You could be standing next to him, camera ready as we always were those days.  You would see something worth shooting and you would. Oke would shoot too. That was a game we used to play….shoot the same scene at the same time and vive la difference when you finally got to look at the prints.  Oke  may have been third generation U.S., but his esthetic was very Japanese and the design of his work was  impeccable. I was in awe.

As you can see from my bio, I was very much opposed to the Vietnam war and this soured my relationship with  him until I realized what he was doing from his unique position as Johnson’s personal photographer. Here was an exceptional documentary photographer  with credentials  that included  the highest security clearance. He could be anywhere the president was and document events from the inside. That’s what he did  with incredible consistency and flare. What he produced is  a  unique  visual history of a president. Most of the work is at the Lyndon Johnson Library. Someday I would love to curate an exhibition of that work in Washington D.C.

At the end of the Johnson Administration I wrote to congratulate him on this unique project and wish him well once he left the White House. That’s when I got the letter of thanks dated  Jan 20,1969. He wrote it his last day in the White House.   Later when we talked on  the phone, he told me that his favorite  Zimbel photograph, “The Goose, Bronx 1958″  had hung in his office directly downstairs from the Oval Office during his tenure. I hadn’t known about this. That  photo had been banned by his wife from Yoichi’s  home, but found a home downstairs from the President!

All of which makes me hope that President Obama  will find a  very talented photographer whom he will  permit  to  seriously document of one of the most important periods in American history. No more photo-ops!


ps: I’m a little slow. Congratulations to Pete Souza who has been appointed as Obama’s  official photographer.

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