"Bathers, New York City, 1990" by Kenneth Jarecke/Contact
Back in 1990, Time Magazine decided to do a piece on the wreck that New York City had become. They called their cover story, "The Rotting of the Big Apple" and they assigned me to make the pictures. At that point, Time was very proud of using only color photography. I think it had more to do with the fact that they could actually produce a newsmagazine entirely in color every week, rather than anyone having a great need to see everything in color... every week.
Look at it this way, during the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979, master PFJ David Burnett shot both color and black & white while making his historical images of the Ayatollah Khomeini, because the magazines needed both. You see, the color (less newsworthy) pages could be printed earlier in the week while the black & white (breaking news) pages would be printed on deadline.
If memory serves, they made the leap to total color printing in 1981.
Anywho, when I was offered this job I immediately thought b&w. Not so much because I wanted to play against all of the classic b&w photographs of New York City, those great images that make up our collective hive mind of the place (like I pitched to the magazine), but because I was spending a lot of time in Bill Pierce's darkroom/loft/crash pad for wayward PFJ's, and I really wanted an excuse to hangout there some more.
Yes, "wayward PFJ" is redundant.
When I met Bill, I'd long moved on to the wonderful world of Kodachrome. I thought I'd put Tri-X behind me. Still, to learn from a master, who learned from THE master (in another loft over on 6th Avenue), heck, even I was smart enough to grab onto that.
Needless to say, after all they'd done to get them out, Time wasn't overly excited to put black & white images back into their magazine (something they'd accomplished less than ten years before). Still, they gave me a chance. A week actually, to shoot Tri-X around the city and prove it was the right choice for this piece.
While we're on the topic, thank you Michele, for this and so many other gifts over the years.
Eight or nine days later I showed up, in a suit, with a museum box full of 16 x 20, selenium toned, museum quality, fiber-based prints for my presentation.
Yes, the printing costs alone would destroy many a photo budget today. The crazy notion of paying a photographer to shoot for seven days just to prove a point? Oy, don't get me started!
Well, to make this overly long story a little shorter, they went for it! Color us all surprised on that one. The essay was a huge success. So huge that Mayor Dinkins personally banned me from his offices, not the magazine, just me.
"Under the Boardwalk, New York City, 1990" by Kenneth Jarecke/Contact
To brag a bit, the essay was published in dozens of magazines around the world. I've got a banker's box of tearsheets from this take alone. I don't quite remember, but Stern did something like forty pages worth of double-trucks when they printed it.
Probably the biggest accomplishment of the piece however, was reopening the pages of Time magazine to b&w photography.
At the time, "Bathers" was probably my favorite. I thought "Under the Boardwalk" maybe wasn't sophisticated enough, or to be honest, probably just too pretty. To prove my point, "Bathers" was awarded first place in World Press by the chic European crowd, whereas "Under the Boardwalk" took first in the very American POY.
Today I'd say they're both pretty, and good. No fault of my own, they couldn't have been more easier to make, they just fell right into my lap.
Sometimes photography is like that.
"Under the Boardwalk" is probably my most requested print for people's homes and whatnot. I've grown to love it. These days I find it a pleasure to both print and to look at.
Maybe I'm getting soft.
"Bathers" has had a weird life of it's own. At one point, a huge silver print, maybe six feet across, hung behind the bar of a popular Manhattan restaurant. The place is now closed, not sure on the fate of the print. It's been a favorite of both people in the photo community, but also of those with no real interest in photography. The only people that haven't liked it were the Iranian censors empowered by the above mentioned Ayatollah. When it traveled there as part of the World Press exhibit, they insisted on painting over the woman's back with a black marker.
To be fair, about two seconds after I made the frame she did take off her top. I don't think they realized I was there. Yikes. I hightailed it. No need to embarrass us both.
If you ever wanted a couple of special pieces for your home or office, now is the time to get them. These two go perfect together, and they're the real deal. Well, I like to think so anyway.
I'll write a little bit on the other eight images available (at this special price) over the next few days. Remember, this offer ends on Monday.
Albest (that's Time speak for "All the best").