Three African-American boys.1. 1940: This was the first photograph I made with my new Speedgraphic. It's a synchro-sunlight exposure--I used a flash to fill in the shadows and overpower the sun which gives a dark sky in the background. That takes a lot of calculating, and I lucked out and got it right. At first I printed the negative trying to keep the dark skin light and burn in the teeth for detail. Then one day, after putting the paper in the developer, the phone rang and I didn't get back to it for two or three minutes; the print was quite dark, but much more effective and I've been printing it that way ever since. MSA SC 1890-41-10,025

 

Legs of dancing couple.2. c. 1941: This picture was taken one Saturday afternoon at a jam session in a St. Louis tavern. This particular couple caught my eye because they seemed to summarize the jitterbug character of the day. I pre-focused the camera on one spot on the dance floor and set the camera vertically on the floor. When they danced to my spot, I snapped the shutter, not even looking through the viewfinder. In 1945, when Edward Steichen reviewed my portfolio, he paused at this photograph and said, "Young man, if you keep making photographs like this one, you'll be a good photographer some day." MSA SC 1890-41-10,019

 

East St. Louis farmer.3. 1942: About a month before I went into the Navy, my friend Wally Simmons and I went over to East St. Louis to see what we could find to make pictures of. We were always looking for subjects for camera club competitions. We found this scene: the clouds were so spectacular and with the horse-drawn binder silhouetted against them it made a dramatic record of an era. I knew I had a winner. MSA SC 1890-41-10,011

 

Spa Creek in the winter.4. 1949: After we moved to Annapolis, I always went out on snowy days looking for good views, and that's when I found this vantage point on Spa Creek. I knew I needed to get up above the six-foot-high sea grass in the foreground, so I piled up a bunch of wooden crates that had been dumped in this vacant lot. Then I climbed up with my tripod and film holders and set up the camera twelve feet above the ground. I used the rear element of a triple convertible lens to make the picture; when I climbed down, I couldn't find the front element. About a week later, when the snow melted, the neighbors called me and said they'd found it, so I gave them a print of the picture. MSA SC 1890-02-536A

 

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge5. July 1953: When the Bay Bridge opened in 1952, I immediately realized the potential for a dramatic portrait at night. It took several tries to get it right because I knew exactly where I wanted the moon and that placement only occurs in summer. The picture was made from on top of the old Sandy Point ferry terminal--about 60 feet above ground. There was so little traffic then that I had to wait for a car onto come on the bridge, and I knew it took four minutes to get across, so that's how I timed the exposure. To prevent the streak of light from being too bright in the foreground, I reached around the camera and slowly stopped the diaphragm down to F32 as the car rounded the curve. I'm still amazed that it worked. MSA SC 1890-02-20B

 

The Constitution in drydock.6. 1954: A friend offered to take me into the Key Highway yards of Bethlehem Steel to see the Constitution while she was in dry dock. I was only there for ten minutes--just long enough for this one shot. The next day was the last day for entries for the National Press Photographers competition, so I rushed home and made a 16x20 print and sent it off. I won a set of Encyclopedia Britannica for the Picture of the Year in the pictorial category. MSA SC 1890-03-1160B

 

Foggy scene in Garrett County.7. 1956 circa: I was doing so much work for the State that we had an arrangement with the State Forester: when there was a cancellation for one of their cabins, we would get free lodging in exchange for doing pictures of the parks. This year we were at Herrington Manor in Garrett County. It was a foggy summer morning, and I wandered off with my camera to see what I could find. I saw this scene, got it set up, and waited about 20 minutes in hope that someone would come along and sit down on the bench. No one did, but I shot it anyway. MSA SC 1890-12-2283A

 

Sailboats on the Bay.8. 1956: I was out on a Tidewater Fisheries patrol boat, covering the oyster fleet all day, just taking advantage of a free ride. Photographing boats is a wonderful opportunity to play with compositions because they move almost in slow motion. You just watch them drift into various formations, and wait for the right moment. Sometimes it never happens. MSA SC 1890-25-12,664-20

 

Women in the ocean.9. 1958: My arrangement with the State was that I would make pictures throughout the year with no pay, then at the end of the fiscal year they would order prints of what I had shot with whatever money was left in the budget. This year they got us a free apartment in Ocean City. One day after lunch, I talked these waitresses into putting on their swimsuits and coming out to play in the surf. I like the way you can see the individual forms, yet it's obviously unposed. And the one girl who's fending off the waves and the other with the big smile--I couldn't have arranged it that well deliberately. MSA SC 1890-24-16

 

A crabber on the Severn River.10. 1960 circa: With a 4x5 camera you only get one chance at a shot like this. We'd been out on the Bay and were headed in at sunset when I saw this man crabbing at the mouth of the Severn River. The sun was just hitting his net, and the reflections were perfect. At the time I took the picture, I thought he was fishing. Twenty years later I went out crabbing with my son-in-law, who was using a technique I was unfamiliar with: running a trot-line. When I learned the procedure--netting crabs along a string to which bait is tied--I suddenly realized that was what this man had been doing when I made this picture. MSA SC 1890-25-814

 

Dilapidated church in Baltimore11. July 1969: I found this building on Sharpe Street when I was documenting the area for the Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Authority. I realized that it would be a great photograph, but the sun wasn't quite right. I was waiting for it to creep up to light the shadows when this little boy came along and said, "Take my picture." I thought he made a perfect little cherub. MSA SC 1890-03-2544-2

 

Juxtaposition of buildings in Baltimore.12. 1974 circa: This photograph exemplifies my belief that the simpler you can make the image, the more dramatic its impact will be. I saw this scene and was immediately struck by its potential. I saw it as an editorial statement about the loss of beauty and human scale in our architecture, but I've sold it several times to people who interpret it as a symbol of progress. I guess beauty really does lie in the eye of the beholder. MSA SC 1890-03-2977A
 
 

 
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