1970-1972 Work-Study Program at State University College at Oneonta with Professor George Zimmermann (an ex-Naval Photographer). I supervised the color and black/white darkrooms, and used Zimmermann’s Lieca G to shoot local dirt-track stock car races and Oneonta’s abandoned Delaware and Hudson rail yards along with nude studies of a beautiful young wife. Learned darkroom hygiene: scrupulous chemical and time measurement along with a profound respect for the craft of photography. George died the summer of 2009 and I went to Oneonta to the funeral. I hadn’t seen him in over 30 years; his son had found a letter I had sent him in the years right after graduation which thanked him for being such a good mentor and supporter.
1972-1973 Moved to New York City and lived in a fifth floor walk-up in the meat-packing district on West 17th street. (This is a picture we took in 2011 as we walked the High Line in front of the old building). Took pictures of the freight trains on the elevated tracks below the bathroom window out in the hall. Wandered Manhattan through the night. Worked at Bill House Studios on East 23rd, owned by an ex-Grey Advertising executive, the principle “house” account being Pan-American Airways. Along with playing Bridge every lunch hour, learned more darkroom procedure, running a hand-process E-4 (reversal) film line, processing black and white film and prints, under pressure at great speed.
1973-1980 Germaine School of Photography at 225 Broadway near City Hall in lower Manhattan. A prestigious name in photography trade schools, Germaine was a famous photography retoucher whose family expanded the school into a comprehensive photography trade school, with an affiliation to St. John’s University’s degree program in photography. These 7 years were spent assisting instructors, tutoring, maintaining darkroom and studio equipment, and taking classes in lighting, portraiture, still-life studio, sports and forensic photography. Germain’s permanent staff of instructors were all successful photographic businessmen, and the school’s roster of adjunct teachers and education partners ran the spectrum of the New York photographic community in the 1970’s: Karl Nemecek, head photographer for Metropolitan Life; George Kalinski, head photographer at Madison Square Garden; Angelo Abate, fashion photographer; Frank Tartaro, king of the Dye-Transfer print; Wayne Hollingworth, Tartaro protégé and early collaborator of Chuck Close and the large photorealist paintings; Marty Forscher of Professional Camera Repair, and along with a range of commercial and fine art luminaries who gave seminars and workshops, like Walter Chandoha, Gary Winogrand, Dionora Niccolini, Fritz Goro and Arthur Rothstein.
1981-1998 Everett Studios in White Plains, New York. After a move to the Westchester suburbs so we could raise a family, a fortuitous job offer happened and 18 year relationship began with this wonderful graphic design business. Robbie and Mark Everett, sons of photographer and inventor Monte Everett (Monte had been a chief assistant to Yousef Karsch for years) , turned Dad’s small portrait studio and corporate photo services company into a strong graphic arts corporate services presence in the tri-state area. As a photographer brought on to head their photo studio, I joined several other expanding departments as the Everett brothers moved into a 10,000 sq. ft. customized space in downtown White Plains. Specializing in design and production services to the large corporations in Westchester, Everett grew to over 100 people, with board artist, designers, typesetters, audio visual production, mounting and display, a complete state of the art photo lab facility along with a 3000 sq. ft. photography studio that reached it’s zenith in the early 1990’s.
It was the best place to learn and grow. The Everett’s were dedicated to quality. I used the best: Sinar P 4×5 and 8×10 cameras, Schneider and Nikkor lenses of every description, an extensive Hasselblad outfit, including a Superwide C, and a complete collection of Nikon equipment. A long relationship with Fuji (headquartered then on Taxter Road in Elmsford) brought a Panorama GX617 into the equipment room. We had Speedotron, Dynalite and Broncolor flash generators, and a wide variety of tungsten-halogen Lowell lighting. Umbrellas, soft-boxes, a Hose-Master, scrims, flats, backgrounds, formicas, light tables, camera stands and booms.
There was the full-service lab in house, so we could run sheet film tests for individual shots (holding the brackets) while the client waited and we set up more shots. Everett ran a “dip and dunk” line with racks for E-6, C-41 and black/white sheet and roll film. The lab had a complete custom C and R print processors, 6 color + 2 black and white darkrooms (including a horizontal enlarger on tracks for murals), and in the next room was a large display and mounting facility, with a huge 4×8 foot heat press for dry mounting and various roller laminating machines. Mark Everett was scrupulous about quality, and that got the lab many commissions through the Witkin Gallery in NYC, they printed for Joel Sternfeld and Steven Shore, and got farmed out work from Duggal. The studio and the lab would work on critical copy jobs for the Dahesh Museum in New York, along with many local artists (we hated copy work for painters).
Through the years I worked with a lot of great people.
Jayme Lawnsby, who came to Everett (straight from RISD) a year before I did, worked in the lab and came to the studio a few years after I started (and is still with Everett). He was a patient and tenacious photographer, who knew color theory backwards and forwards; he and I worked together on most of the major jobs.
Leslye Smith, who I worked with for almost 10 years, left Everett with darkroom specialist Dave Baer to form their own business. My start at Everett was made easier and so much more fun by Leslye’s patience with me, her great sense of humor, and her wonderful smile.
John Hill came to work with me after he graduated from RIT. John brought a wealth of photographic theory to the job, and enriched my understanding of the craft immeasurably. We wouldn’t have been able to do half of what we did without his methodical and knowledgeable mind. After 6 years he left to form his own studio in Port Chester, NY.
Eddie Berman, a tall, scrappy Irishman from the Bronx, came to Everett to work with me after he graduated from SUNY Purchase in the early 90’s. After he left to form his own business, he frequently free-lanced with me on projects as an assistant and shooter. He’s a monster of energy and good humor, and it was great to be around him.
Jen Mone,the last assistant I worked with, also came from the SUNY Purchase photography program. We worked together for 2 years before I left. She ran the studio for another year and then went to Christopher Radko, where she shoots Christmas ornaments year-round. I introduced Jennifer and John one day in the studio when John came to visit, and eventually they married.
Peter Dattilo, my closest friend from Everett, started the Dakota Group with his associate and friend Skyler Warner. Eventually they brought in Jerry Hawkins, who was my art director at Everett on countless jobs.
There were all kinds of photography work. Most of my time was spent in the studio, shooting table-top still life, though we shot everything from furniture and room sets to microchips. There was travel, and plenty of location work, from bottling plants and high tech clean rooms, to major league baseball stadiums and the roofs of skyscrapers in New York City, subterranean wiring tunnels to aircraft interiors, on the White House lawn and at IBM headquarters, in Palm Springs and Portland Maine, in Kentucky, North Carolina and Toronto, there was all kinds of work.
We filled a niche that local corporations needed. They’d go to New York for their big ad campaign photography, but we shot almost everything else.
We shot thousands of glasses of beverages for General Foods and their coupon pages (I was very proud of our expensive collection of Plexiglas Ice from Trengove Studios in Manhattan). I shot Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, SunBurst (those foil pouches were murder to light), Kool Bursts, and every trial market product they could think of. We had a great location adventure shooting Michael Waltrip and the yellow Country Time NASCAR race car at Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina. That sort of made up for all that Country Time lemonade we shot back at the studio.
Another huge client was Pepsi. Not only did we shoot Pepsi packaging in every conceivable permutation for every possible purpose, but became experts in the art of the beaded bottle; I could talk for 20 minutes about the ways to create just the right kind of bead, with the right volume and shape, and the random dispersion of them down the side of a plastic bottle, in addition to creating the right amount of reflected light through the product. Pepsi, diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Mug Root beer, Sierra Mist, Brisk Ice Tea, Slice and Aquafina.
Our work with beverages extended to Heineken (based in White Plains), Heublein, Sidney Frank Importing (Grey Goose vodka), Snapple, Perrier and Evian. One of the greatest jobs ever was the promotional poster we shot for Coors: we built a beach scene at Studio One in Stamford, CT. (over 4 tons of sand and a juke box).
We shot a ton of technology for IBM. We used fiber optic strobes and special polarizing filters to capture the beauty and intricacy of their microchips as they announced and documented their silicon products. We shot at every major IBM location on the East Coast, from Burlington, Vermont and East Fishkill, New York to the A.J. Watson Research facility in Yorktown and the banking division in Charlotte, North Carolina (there again!). Production lines, research facilities, clean rooms, labs, offices, meetings, people, technology, architecture, speakers, computers, screens, software packaging… Everett’s fortunes rose with the growth of that giant company during the turnaround engineered by Lou Gerstner (I photographed him too).
There were many other big jobs. A huge project for Konica USA, where we shot all their photo paper manufacturing and film processing plants, from California to Maine. They wanted a corporate identity piece so it was the best kind of work: people, environmental portraiture, industrial workplace, everyday new challenges and creative thinking, standing on cars and catwalks, gelling lights and reading meters and using walkie-talkies and Polaroiding the living shit out of the scene.
Another big account was Cuisenaire, which published a catalog of math and science learning materials several times each year. The studio would be filled with microscopes, telescopes, crayfish farms, solar clocks, books, games, blocks, counters, charts and puzzles, and lots of children/models playing with everything.
Henkel knives. Ziess microscopes. Cyndi Lauper. Log Cabin syrup. Colin Powell. Stovetop stuffing. Goebel figurines. Bruschwig and Fils fabrics. Post cereals. The first President Bush. Danske dinnerware. Dog food. Blood analyzers. Custom furniture. Sigmoidoscopes. Baby pajamas. Communion vessels. Airplane instruments. Sailboat hardware. Jewelry and watches. Eyeglass frames. Shoes. Bathroom tile. Mustard. Pasta. Dogfood.
It sure was great.
Everett Studios has since moved from White Plains to Armonk, with a much reduced staff and production capabilities.
One of the funniest men alive and an anchor of the crew of support people on computers was Blair Saldana, who has set up a Facebook page for “Neverett Ex-pats”. Once a brother or sister in production – always a bother or sister.