1982

We decided to have the baby at a birthing center, the only one in Manhattan, four miles uptown from the loft. Late in the third trimester, our baby got stuck in the wrong position, feet down. Mary Ann believed as part of her witch power that she had control over her body and could will the baby to turn round, but the staff at the birthing center, skittish about any risk, shifted our care over to the nearest hospital. Mary Ann still wouldn’t give up on natural childbirth—I remember sallying forth in the middle of the night to a twenty-four-hour pharmacy to get castor oil to help her contractions get moving after her water broke. Alas, natural childbirth was not our fate. We were in the hospital, thirty-six hours into labor, when a nurse didn’t like what she saw on the fetal heart monitor, our room suddenly filled with doctors and nurses, and Mary Ann was wheeled out the door. I stood outside the operating room not long after, holding our newborn open-eyed girl. We named her Eve.

—Rock In A Landslide

 
 

Mary Ann’s transition from two to three was rougher than mine. She hadn’t been able to will her body to cooperate—she’d undergone a Caesarian section and woke up with a gash in her belly, still woozy from anesthetic. She didn’t want the baby until she was herself again, but within a day, she was able to turn her attention to being a mother, and our baby happily latched on to her breast. I hovered, superfluous though integral to our new trio.

I stepped up for the father’s duty of driving our new family home, and when I was navigating the narrow, curvy passage around Grand Central Station, a yellow taxi suddenly appeared in the wrong lane, speeding straight at us till he swerved clear at the last-second. That was the moment I realized the stakes had been upped—it wasn’t just two emerging artists in the car, it was also our defenseless, dependent, life-long commitment, our shared project, about whom we suddenly cared more than anything else in the world.

—Rock In A Landslide

 
 

Our happiness with our family came through in our artwork too. I’d always photographed my family, and I’d taken lot of pictures of Mary Ann before Eve arrived. Having a child supercharged my desire to document my life and the people in it. It’s not really different from most fathers, just that my pictures were better—it turns out that thousands of hours devoted to the practice does make a difference. Mary Ann too began to produce more domestic objects, beautiful plates for us to eat off of, and a brightly colored dish with compartments labeled “olives” and “pits.” For me, she made a heart out of screening, about life size, with “I LOVE YOU” in twigs wired onto one side.

Rock In A Landslide

 
 

Eve was born in May, and in August, I accepted a three-week assignment to photograph the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. My mother made an exception to her usual tight control of the house in Maine and let Mary Ann and little Eve stay there just the two of them. The stay in Maine was idyllic. During my overlap with them, before and after my trip, we dipped Eve’s toes in the freezing ocean and introduced her to her first flowers, which she leaned towards in fascination from her snugly carrier strapped to Mary Ann’s chest. When I was gone, Mary Ann would lay the baby under the big spruce tree in front of the house, which she correctly guessed would be effective childcare: Eve was mesmerized by the ever-changing patterns of the branches against the sky, and Mary Ann drew and did watercolors.

—Rock In A Landslide

 
 
 

Elisabeth Biondi, who had preceded Alice as picture editor at GEO, also succeeded her. Elisabeth had given me the green light for my first GEO story, photographing fox hunting, and she was the one who gave me the job taking pictures of the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, a glamorous travel assignment if ever there was one. The curve ball on this job, that I didn’t realize until I got to Brazil, was that there’s almost nobody at the beach in Rio except on Sundays, when it seems that everyone in the whole city is disporting themselves in tiny bathing suits. I stayed for three weekends, nibbling around the edges of the story six days of the week and intently photographing on those precious Sundays, when I knew the most important photographs had to be made.

Politics again played a role. The first democratic elections since a military coup in 1964 were taking place that year, and the best place to court voters in Rio was, of course, on the beach on Sundays. The band in the back of this opening spread was part of the campaign for the governorship of the state of Rio de Janeiro.

 
… a glamorous travel assignment if ever there was one.
 
 
 
 
 

When Alice Rose George moved from GEO to Fortune, and I discovered that taking pictures for a business magazine was as interesting as working for any other client, I realized that I needed to figure out artificial lighting. I’d relied only on “available” light and on-camera flash up to that point, but photography in the business world presented new demands, especially for portraiture, since executives typically allotted a set time for their picture to be taken, and you had to produce something really good for your client. My excellent college photo teacher Dick Rogers lived only a few blocks away in New York City, and though he was by then completely converted to filmmaking, I appealed to him for help. He hauled out his old, long unused lighting equipment, and in his staccato style, his words barely keeping up with his mind, he ran through the basic principles: the bigger the light source and the closer to the subject, the more pleasing the effect; strobe lights don’t heat up the way “hot” lights do, and they can stop action much more effectively; light falls off according to the inverse square law (very important and easy to remember once you figure out what it means). Dick found the Polaroid camera back for his dusty Hasselblad camera, took off his shirt, and posed for some instant portraits holding something in his hands. I don’t remember what he held, but he did it reverentially, giving the object and the photograph a heightened importance.

I bought a basic strobe kit and a book about lighting, though it taught me little that Dick hadn’t gone over already. Time to practice. I called my father and asked if I could come down to Philadelphia and photograph partners in his law firm, he said yes, and I took the train down for a couple of days of trotting from office to office, setting up strobe lights, and learning by making one mistake after another. And I took a few good pictures, too, establishing right away two of the tropes of my business portraits: the relaxed, even rumpled executive and the long view through the window.

 
Photography in the business world presented new demands, especially for portraiture.
 
 

Scott was at the beginning of fourteen years as President of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, visible out the window at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Although Scott had a broadly distinguished tenure at the Museum, he is perhaps best remembered for the following, as recounted in his obituary in The New York Times:

“Though part of Mr. Scott's mandate at the Philadelphia Museum was to help its collections grow, one of his signal contributions to the city's cultural life was to take something away. In 1982, the museum had paid $12,000 to remove an 800-pound statue of Sylvester Stallone, left on its steps after "Rocky III" was shot there.

Like a great bronze albatross, the statue returned in 1990 for "Rocky V." Mr. Scott, who publicly if diplomatically deplored the sculpture, helped make sure the producers came to collect it immediately after the filming.”

Never one to miss an opportunity to take pictures of my family, I scheduled a session to photograph my father as well. Even in the midst of all that lighting practice, when it came to the picture I cared about most, I preferred available light.

 
 

To me, my father’s look says, “I can take you.” Dad wrestled in high school, and so did I. We wrestled each other only once, more than ten years before this photo. We were fueled by liquor and went at it on the floor of the apartment where he lived with his wife Barbara and their two daughters. I was getting the advantage of him, and he found a piece of metal shelving to rap hard on my shin. It was very painful, it was very effective, and since it was clear that I was younger, stronger, and a better wrestler, it was the end of that phase of our rivalry.

 

After my days photographing Philadelphia lawyers, I went back to New York, showed the picture editors at Fortune what I’d done, and got my first executive portrait assignment: Amory Houghton Jr., of Corning Glass. I packed up my new lights and stands and took a puddle jumper up to Corning, New York. When we made a stop en route, some instinct made me go to the front of the plane, and, ducking so as not to hit my head in the doorway, I saw my equipment being unloaded. I freaked; the attendant said, Don’t worry, it’ll catch up with you tomorrow; I refused to sit back down until they fetched the cases and put them back in the hold.

 
 

After all that, I still relied on natural light to make my pictures. I met Houghton first thing in the morning at his house and took this shot of him and his basset hound, Sherman. Sherman was the second Houghton basset of that name. The first one had a habit of wandering down to the local bar and drinking sips given him by the patrons. One night he drunkenly wandered into the street and was killed by a car. When the Houghtons replaced him, they couldn’t think of a better name, so the new one was called Sherman too.

Alice Rose George loved the easy familiarity of this photo; it was the first of scores of portraits for Fortune.

 
Kelly Nowels