The Rotting of the Big Apple


"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.

Here's the link.

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").





Our Winter


Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images

Jim Nachtwey, a PFJ of the first order, is taking an undeserved beating over an offer for an unpaid internship.

The controversy started here, on a blog called Jamie's List.

Personally, I think interns should be paid, for a couple of reasons.

One, the overhead saved on having unpaid interns is passed along to the photographer's clients and serves to lower what customers expect to pay for photography. To put it another way, if I have to hire someone to help me print, I'm going to have to raise the price of each print to pay for that expense. If I have an unpaid intern, I don't raise my prices and the customer gets a discount on the true cost of that image.

Two, people that get paid usually work better and stay around longer than unpaid interns. In the long run, it's probably cheaper to just pay somebody in the first place.

Three, it's the right thing to do.

However, people are free to make their own decisions. Would you rather have a government agency tell Jim and his potential intern what kind of a relationship they could agree to?

Unlike many, I'd have no problem saying any of this to Jim in person.

That should be the end of the story, but no, the interesting part is how the comments aimed towards Jim turned real nasty, real quick.

The only way I can explain it is, well sure there's probably some jealousy factored in, but it has to be a manifestation of the overall desperation that has the photography world in a death grip.

I mean, there are people out there that are displaying a real level of contempt for both Jim and his work, which is not only uncool, but must point to something else. Something a whole lot deeper than just not liking a certain photographer.

Jim has, for the permanent record, been an extremely positive influence in both my life and my work. His work has forced me, and every other photographer working today to produce better images, not just images of conflict, but in all branches of the photojournalism tree. Furthermore, You can not work with a camera today (regardless of your field) without somehow being influenced by Jim Nachtwey.

Let me say that again,  Jim's influence has made you, and any working photographer you admire, better.

There are a few misconceptions floating around this controversy.

Time Magazine did not create Jim Nachtwey. You can argue that Jim had a couple of editors that helped him along, but who doesn't? If anything, Jim's work has given Time a level of gravitas and credibility that it doesn't deserve.

Originally Jim either had only one, or no images (I don't remember which) in the now famous, black-bordered, post 9-11 issue of Time. The entire issue was rebuilt around Jim's images on the insistence of one editor. Today, those images are what everyone remembers. That's just one example, there are others. Jim's work (and that of other great photographers, great editors, and maybe a writer or two) is what allows Time to enjoy a certain level of respect.

Having a contract with a big magazine is not what makes a photographer great. Magazines (at one point, long ago) sought out great talent and put them under contract to ensure that they would have great work to publish. The fact that this no longer happens is ( I think) a clue to why this anger has been directed towards Jim.

By the way, when was the last time you saw a picture of Natchwey's in Time?

If quality doesn't matter (and the magazines have decided that it doesn't) then what hope do any of us have? Isn't that what we're really asking here? Jim's not the problem. Yes, the ad was poorly worded, and yes interns should be paid, but do you really think Jim had much to do with placing that ad?

It was a small mistake. Let it drop.

Personally, I don't think Jim should have tried to rebrand himself as an "anti-war" photographer. That didn't make sense to me, but still he's earned a pass.

It doesn't pay much, but we do offer an internship out here in the wilds of Montana. It's cold, zero degrees right now, and along with some basic Photoshop and filing skills, you need to have some advanced fencing skills (the kind that uses barb-wire, not those sissy swords). Being comfortable in Carhartts is a must.

We also serve lunch. Today we had pie... cherry, slightly over-sharpened.

Kenneth Jarecke/Contact Press Images


Bob Jarboe, Rest in Peace

Bob Jarboe was my first real boss and mentor in the world of photojournalism. He taught me things that I didn't even know that I needed to know.

I can't say I did much in return, unless you consider having a slightly less bull-headed AP stringer to deal with as a favor. Man, when I think back on the stringers in Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Ames he had to constantly wrangle, I think there should be some type of sainthood bestowed.

Saint Bob, The Perpetually Frustrated, but Never Overly Flustered sounds about right.

I'll tell you, he did nurture some pretty good shooters in his day. What a bunch of characters he had in his crew. Weird and beautiful times. Of course, to be honest, Bob was a bit of a character himself. Maybe that explains his high level of tolerance for crazy.

All of this was secondary to his family of course. He was deeply loved and will be sorely missed. I always remember the story he told of saving his meal per diems, for something like a year, and surprising his wife Mary with a brand new (I think it was a 1964) Ford Mustang (paid in cash) for her birthday.

Here's a short obit...

 DALLAS—Former Associated Press photographer Robert "Bob" Jarboe, whose career with the company spanned more than 40 years, has died. He was 85. 
Jarboe died Thursday after being hospitalized with pneumonia, his daughter said Monday. 
Born July 27, 1923, he grew up in Topeka, Kan. During his first semester at Kansas State University, Pearl Harbor was bombed, so Jarboe left college to work as an aircraft radio inspector for the U.S. Army and Air Force. 
When World War II ended in 1945, Jarboe joined the AP in Dallas as a wire photo operator. Aside from several months he served as wire photo operator in Miami in 1946, he worked in Dallas until 1976. He then went to Des Moines, Iowa, where he was a photographer and photo editor. After he retired from AP in 1988, he and his wife returned to Dallas, living in the suburb of Richardson. 
During his AP career he photographed nine presidents, Pope John Paul II and countless sporting events. He also helped cover the assassination of President Kennedy, the Jack Ruby trial and the Apollo 13 mission. 
Daughter Roberta Grenfell said her father decided to retire after he spent an hour on his knees taking pictures of first lady Nancy Reagan only to find he needed help getting back up and had to get assistance from Reagan. 
"He said, 'When the first lady needs to help you get up, it's time to go,'" Grenfell said. 
Jarboe and his wife, Mary, had three daughters. After his retirement, the couple spent time researching their genealogies, Grenfell said. 
Mary's death on Feb. 9 left Jarboe broken-hearted, said Grenfell, whose parents had been together since elementary school. "They were lifelong sweethearts," she said. 
She said her father had a knack for not only making friends, but keeping them, Grenfell said. "He didn't let people slip out of his life," she said. 
Besides Grenfell, Jarboe is survived by daughters Anne Jarboe and Jan Jarboe. He is also survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 
Services are set for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Restland Cemetery in Wildwood Chapel in Dallas.