Sunday, December 13, 2020

Men in Hats - Part Five


Lenny Foster

Among my portrait victims over the years have been friends, and more specifically, friends who are photographers. Usually, it’s a grab shot but sometimes it’s an honest to goodness portrait session. A handful of times I’ve exchanged sessions. They shoot me. I shoot them.

In today’s episode of Men in Hats are ones I’ve extracted from those rare events.

Cris Pulos

With his trademark Greek fisherman’s cap Cris Pulos is full of craggy charm. He got a twinkle in his eyes and a playful quality. This photograph could have been taken dockside on Santorini in 1949 or under my portal in 2016. Who’s to say? Black and white portraits are timeless. Some of Edward Curtis’s images from early in the last century are remarkably contemporary today. Much like Peter Lev in the opening salvo of the Men in Hats series Cris said he looked older than his years in this image. Sorry to tell you Cris, 70 years on this earth does that to a guy. He studied photography at the New England School of Photography, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and with Minor White at MIT. Cris Pulos specializes in Photogravure.

Lenny Foster

I leaned on Lenny Foster for a portrait party several years ago. Lenny, arguably Taos’s best-known and certainly best loved photographer till he left us for Saint Augustine, consented to the shoot which was meant to memorialize his selection as Best of Show in the annual Fall Arts Festival. He’s an enormously charismatic man who proved to be as comfortable in front of the camera as behind it. He’s also never without a lid which makes him an essential part of the series. Two weeks ago, I him how many hats he owns. He told me five. I would have guessed thirty. Like a skilled actor he phased through a compendium of poses, from his usual sunny self to more brooding takes, the ones I favor.

Josef Tornick

Photographer Josef Tornick describes himself as a project-oriented humanist documentary photographer. A few less descriptors would be helpful, Josef. He names Josef Sudek, Manuel Bravo, Flor Garduno, Paul Strand, David Michael Kennedy, and Keith Carter among many others as models for his work. Josef’s magnum opus is 2009’s Tir A Mhurain – 50 years On, an homage to the roughhewn inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides and Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The book’s title refers to Paul Strand’s 1954 photographic journal of the same name.

John Farnsworth

John Farnsworth had called himself a photographer for ten years. But for nearly 50 years before his conversion, he was one of the Southwest’s best- known painters. We first met fifteen years ago at a painting workshop in Canyon de Chelly where he and the late Louisa McElwain were instructors. When we connected by telephone before the trip, we found that we were the same age, old, and had haunted the same Phoenix dive bars and dance halls in the early sixties. We also discovered that his mother had been a switchboard operator in Williams, AZ in the post war years. My wife’s aunt Nora was a switchboard in Williams at the same time. John’s the son of a railroad engineer, his father’s father and all of his uncles worked for the railroad. His mother’s people were loggers and sawmill operators. He grew up in railroad towns and logging camps strewn across Northern Arizona. His accounts of his early years suggest a rough and tumble youth. He joined the Army directly out of high school when after a drunken escapade the local judge gave him a choice. Join this man’s Army tomorrow or go to jail. That was 1959.

When he was nine his mother and his new stepfather took him to Taos. He recalls standing in a gallery overhearing two men discuss a painting on the wall. Suddenly he noticed that one of the men was the painting. The painting was the man. In that moment John Farnsworth became an artist. He sold his first watercolors while serving at Fort McArthur in San Pedro, California. After the Army he painted while working as a draftsman, a commercial artist, and an Indian Trader. He became a full-time artist in 1967. 

The camera was no more than a research tool until the advent of digital cameras. After a fifty year career as a painter he realized he could be an artist with a camera, too.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Thank goodness for Men in Hats, and Part Five at that. I particularly love the second shot of Lenny Foster with pursed lips. He is so damned photogenic and you have a classic. The shot of John Farnsworth shows a lot about the man, who I don't know, but the story and your relative close history and Arizona experiences via Peggy are wonderful! How many men have been saved by some wise law enforcement type or teacher saying "It's the army or jail." And San Pedro is not bad duty. The camera is a research tool and a documentary tool, as you said, and digital cameras as well as smart phones are now leading the eyes of many artists. Evolution before our eyes. Thanks for the series. I hope it continues.