Posted in Opinion on Sunday, October 4th, 2009
Marty Forscher once complained to me that I didn’t break my cameras often enough to really stay in touch, so he would have to invite me to lunch at the Algonquin Hotel. Then we could talk and catch up. His wife Marian, his good friend, his good advisor, his good ski and golf buddy, and at the end, his good care-giver emailed me that Marty died on September 30 due to heart failure with minimal pain.
I first met Marty in 1948 when Professional Camera Repair Service was located at 420 Lexington Avenue in New York City and was a relatively small shop. It expanded into a miniature United Nations as Marty, now in the new quarters at 37 W. 47 St. hired and trained people of diverse backgrounds in the art of dealing with extremely emotional professional photographers and their gear.
When available equipment couldn’t meet the requirements for a particular kind of photograph, Marty would invent something. The last time I spoke to him he told me that he had a camera on the moon! He had modified a Hasselblad for the use of the astronauts and they had to leave it there to cut down the weight of the return trip to earth. He also invented the Poloroid back for the Nikon which substantially reduced the stress level of many assignment photographers so they knew when they had the shot. It was a precursor to checking the back panel of a digital camera
He was extremely proud of his relationship to Edward Steichen who became a father figure to him after they went off to war to record the role of the Navy during WW II. The story is that Vic Jorgensen, came into Peerless Camera Store where Marty worked the counter, and told him that a group of pro’s were part of a new photographic unit being formed by Steichen for the U.S. Navy. This unit needed a camera repair man. Marty took a Leica home, disassembled it and by the next morning had put it back together in perfect working order. He got the job.
His genius became apparent to Steichen and all who worked in the unit. After the war, he had an impressive group of photographer’s who already depended on his know how, and so began Professional Camera Repair Service.
The shop had an aura of quiet concentration coupled with an amazing energy from the highly charged pro’s who came to get stuff fixed and swap stories of their latest exploits. There was also a bulletin board for equipment for sale, all of course checked out and in perfect condition ready for work.
I had an idea that Professional Camera Repair would be a good place to show work to colleagues…a visual sharing. Marty agreed. So, I had my first New York exhibition there…prints push-pinned into a cork board. The precious photographic art scene had not yet started in New York.
He knew the human role photography could play in the 20th century. This was before the degrading term “photo-op” was invented. He was a social democrat in the best sense of the word and helped photographer’s who were involved in causes he felt would make the world a better place.
He had so many stories. After Marty retired, I wanted to record them. He said no and I understood. They were his personal treasures and he would freely share them with friends, but not the avaricious media.
All I can say now, with tears in my eyes is that he was a mench who expanded the meaning of that word for me personally and for my photographic colleagues. My family sends our condolences to Marian and her family.