Friday, June 20, 2008


On a personal note - Jacob, my eldest, graduated from elementary school the other day. After seven years of wonderful teachers and classmates, he walked out of school a new (and well-dressed) 7th grader, headed for junior high.

For his graduation present Jacob got new bike. It's beautiful, but playing around for the photo below we decided it would be safer to use the old bike - something he's had some practice with!

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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Soiling of Old Glory

I was filling in for a day as photo editor of The Legal Times in DC last week when I was asked to look for images of some African-American lawyers who attended Yale in the early 1970s. This was for a story on statements Clarence Thomas makes in his recent autobiography. I tried the names of the lawyers in various photo databases. Suddenly this photo came up, and I gasped:
The photo shocked millions when it was first published in 1976, the nation's Bicentennial year. At an anti-busing rally in Boston that April, some of the protesters grabbed an African-American lawyer who had the misfortune to be walking by and attacked him, using the American flag as a weapon of racism and hatred. (The lawyer is Ted Landsmark, who was on the list of attorneys I was searching for. He suffered a broken nose and other injuries; today he is president of Boston Architectural College). The photo this year became the subject of its own book: "The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America."
The editors at the Legal Times agreed to use the photo, and I needed to call the photographer, Stan Forman. He's had a remarkable career. At the time he took this photo Stan had won the Pulitzer the previous year, for images of a woman and child falling from a broken fire escape. Then this photo shared the Pulitzer for spot news in 1977. Forman shared his third Pulitzer two years later when the Boston Herald-American's photo staff won for feature photography for its blizzard coverage. That means Stan collected three Pulitzers in four years, a record not since equalled in photography.
In 1983 Forman quit stills and became a cameraman for local station WCVB-TV in Boston, where he's continued to rake in awards. When I reached him to ask about using his photo in the Legal Times he was working out on the streets for WCVB. I asked him what he'd been doing that day. "I was just up at a fire, a Chinese restaurant in Methuen," he said. "It makes good video. That makes my day."


Boy anthropology

I traveled to NY city last week to spend a day photographing at an all-boys' school in Manhattan. When Robin Breckenridge, the president of the design company I was working for, suggested that along with photographing the students themselves I could look for some of their stuff lying around (she sent me a photo of a couple jackets thrown aside as an example), I objected. "I've just spent the weekend trying to get this sort of stuff picked up at my house," I explained.

But Robin was right. I took an early morning train from DC to New York, and when I arrived at the school there was great stuff, often definitely "boy" stuff, all over the place. Even better was working with the kids. The school covered all the way from K to 12, and the students were unfailingly polite, helpful, and fun to work with, whether I was photographing them "in the wild" or in a staged shot. I felt like an anthropologist working in a not-unfamiliar world. Now I just wish I could get sent to photograph a similar school, a girl version. The comparisons would be a blast.