Mary Ann had had chemotherapy once, but her hair was still strong. She was self-conscious about the cuts where her breasts had been, and she hadn’t yet had reconstructive surgery. She posed carefully, and she trusted me not to choose pictures that showed her scars.
The editor-in-chief changed at Fortune this year, and after one too many fights on behalf of her photographers, Alice Rose George, the head of the photo department, who’d given me so many assignments, left the magazine. One of the first jobs the new editor gave me was to make the pictures for an article about Martin Marietta. On day one, I went to the facility where they made the central fuel tank for the space shuttle. It was one of those days when my boyhood fantasies about fighter jets and spaceships came to life in a place and time where I could express them with my camera—the planets lined up. When the editors back in New York viewed this day’s work, they started talking about a photo portfolio to go with the article.
The next day, at another Martin facility, I was presented with a missile guidance system, the blob of mechanics on the table. I laboriously constructed this picture, balancing the color temperature of the various light sources, getting the models’ hands and eyeballs in place. When the editors in New York saw it, they were livid. Where was the sense of humor that had them run a photo of a businessman in Bermuda with naked knees showing under his desk? The talk of a Martin Marietta photo portfolio withered, and my glorious 150-assignment run at Fortune magazine soon came to a dead halt.
I began to get work from various special magazines at The New York Times, on business, on the city itself, and I continued to work for Forbes and other magazines. GEO was out of business in America, my original pair of assigning editors, Alice Rose George and Gary Hoenig, weren’t in jobs that gave out assignments, no one had stepped in to take their places, and an important ratio got inverted: I was spending more time looking for work than actually doing assignments.
The Director of Communications at MCI had gotten a lot of compliments on the annual report I’d done a couple of years earlier, and she asked me to photograph members of one division of the company, all over the country, to construct a slideshow for a big annual employees meeting. It was great fun and also well paid. Alas, I did too good a job. When the pictures were shown at the meeting, employees from other divisions were upset that they had not been included. I proposed to the communications director that we do a division a year, but that went nowhere, and I never got another job from MCI.