Archive for January, 2010

February 3, 1955

Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

George’s View Feb 3, 2010

In  January 1955, I was in Paso Texas  working on a story about a young couple . He was in the army and they lived modestly off base. She was pregnant and in the post WWII world an army career semed secure and stable. I don’t know how I found them, but they were amenable to my tagging along and photographing their life. I was working for a revived SEE  Magazine under two excellent editors, Norman Lobsenz and Marvin Albert. The idea was to give LOOK some competition and LIFE a nudge with some excellent photographic essays. I was staying with my  friends, Ralph & Bronia Lowenstein. Ralph later became the dean of Journalsm at Florida State Univ.

Anyway, I  had difficulty concentrating on the shoot because I was thinking about Elaine Sernovitz, an amazing woman writer who was then working  at the United Nations.  Just before leaving  New York she told me not to bother calling her when I got back.  As she has learned subsequently, I don’t listen, and with Ralph’s permission made a long distance call to New York and asked her to marry me.  I was surprised and very happy when she said “yes.”

We decided to rendezvous in New Orleans and  have a simple ceremony. Visits to the families in Milwaukee and Boston would come later. To compress the following events, I drove my Volkswagon all the way across Texas, at a steady speed of 58mph (the maximum), picked up my watch at a hock shop in Corpus Christi and arrived in New Orleans where I stayed with my cousin Henry Freidman who was a  tourist guide in the  Old Quarter.

I had a message waiting for me from Lynn Marret, my agent in New York.  Marvin  and Norman had been fired, she had rushed over to their office with a bottle of  Scotch and managed to get a check cut for money owed. (The good old days!) Then, to modify the pain she told me that she had gotten me an assignment  to photograph Bourbon Street New Orleans, for a  high end startup men’s magazine that was going to compete with Esquire.

I called Elaine with the bad news/good news and I think she saw me wobbling on the marriage idea. I assured her that I wasn’t. When the money arrived from Lynn in New York, I bought  the wedding rings, and film for the Bourbon Street shoot. With  the help of my cousin Henry. ”Sure you can shoot the strippers; shoot whatever you want. I know everybody on the street.”  I shot for three days and developed the film in the bathroom of the motel where I had moved. Each morning I would  cut the negs and put them in a  proof printing  frame on my doorstep using POP (Printing out paper.) No developer necessary..they were like the red proofs you got from portrait studios in the 1950’s. I captioned, quickly got them out of the light and into and evelope and mailed them to New York. Shortly after the last batch arrived in New York, Lynn sent me a telegram saying the shoot was rejected and they were giving me a $100 kill fee.  What news!!– just before our wedding!

Years later  “Woman at the Bar “  was taken into the collection of MOMA and ICP.  Chelo was included in Bill Ewing’s book “The Body.” (Thames & Hudson 1994)  The entire essay was the subject of  my  book  “Bourbon Street New Orleans 1955 “  published by Les Editions du Passage, Montreal 2006. Of course that didn’t  help us  then.  Freelance people are survivors. We survived and after 55years have four children and  nine grandchildren.

Take a look:


GSZ in the 1960′ case you wondered.

Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, January 22nd, 2010

A Good Man..the first post of 2010

Posted in Opinion on Monday, January 11th, 2010

Banker Toensmeyer

Jon Toensmeyer was a banker at the Hanover bank in New York, located at 250 Park Avenue. It handled corporate accounts such as the Archdiocese of New York, Union Carbide, Kodak , and other giants.

As a young freelancer I had plenty of trouble with banks..they didn’t like freelancers, and I think they like them less now.  I mentioned this to my friend, Willard Block who I believe was working at  CBS, another Hanover account.  He suggested that I go see them. Well, I did, and of course I wasn’t corporate, I wasn’t rich, I wasn’t in any category that a corporate bank  would welcome, so they politely told me that I couldn’t open an account with them.

As I started to morosely exit, a white haired gentleman behind a beautiful desk in the bank officer’s section motioned for me to come over.

“What’s the problem young man?” he asked. I told him.

“What’s that in your hand?” I told him. It was my portfolio..all 11/14″ b/w prints.  “Let me take a look.” he said. I did.   He went through it slowly and then said “fine work”. I think we would be happy to have you as a customer. ”

He set up an account, and later when he ascertained that I was working pretty regularly, he would always ask to see new work. In one of these sessions when I complained that it was  good to work on the Kodak account, but bad to wait  more than  90 days to get paid (some things never change), he  laughed and said  “J.Walter Thompson been paid for your work for Kodak in 30 days and invested that money in 90 day notes, so let’s do a turnabout”. He pulled out a small stack of blank notes and said ” When you finish a job and have it billed out, you can fill in one of these and get immediate credit. Don’t forget to cover it when you finally get paid” . I did and he did.

He later became one of the sponsors for our adopted daughter Jodi,  and soon after retired . He made sure I was passed on to his successor who used to delight in inviting me to lunch in the corporate dining room where my long hair and beard  turned a few well barbered heads.

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