Monday, September 3, 2012

GIFT GIVEN, GIFT USED



By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com

When I was a young newspaper photographer in the mid-1960s, on-the-job training was mostly accomplished by watching, listening, stealing ideas, experimenting and overhearing criticism of your work in a smoke-filled, newsroom already rumbling with the din of teletype machines, air tubes that carried copy to the composing room and a city editor who bellowed. It was a hectic environment and the best immersion one can have for a career that proved mutually suitable. 

I stole from fellow photog Andy Dickerman on the use of natural light and the value of tight composition; from Al Witt on shooting sports; from Ken Muise on working with the fickle public; and from the late Warren Inglese on quality, especially printing.

In my time, Warren was a god, a gifted artist who could have worked for Like Magazine, so revealing were his shots of people and so well-composed his feature pictures. He was a master printer in black and white and quite exacting in his set-up lighting so that the subsequent darkroom result would show careful planning.

That Warren could adapt to technological change over his 43-year career with Westchester County Publishers, then Gannett Suburban, including The Journal-News in Rockland County, N.Y., was another mark of his artistry. In 1948, when the then 23-year-old started in photography after distinguished and harrowing World War II service as a forward observer/scout, newspaper photos were either “spot news” -- accidents, fires, police action, etc. -- or set-up publicity shots. Cameras were large-format Speed Graphic with sheet film that measured 4 inches by five inches. Lighting was by large flashbulb. You had to have your wits about you, carrying heavy equipment like extra film in their holders and bulbs, to grab a spot-news shot. And there was little room for error, unlike today when a photog uses a digital camera with automatic focusing, multiple-shot action and exposure control. And he or she can instantly see the shot. Back in Warren's initial time, you did not know what you had until hours later, after you had developed your film. By the time Warren retired in 1991, as chief photographer for The Journal-News, he was carrying 35mm automated cameras with sophisticated lenses and motor drive. He used the improved technology well.

Yet despite the equipment revolution, one of Warren’s best published feature photographs was taken with a sheet of film in a cardboard box and a pinhole made in its cover. What counted most in that shot, as in every Inglese picture, was the right composition and lighting. Someone with $40,000 in Nikkon cameras could not have done better. And that was his point in making the shot -- that the "eye" counts most. He had an eye.

Warren W. Inglese, who passed away recently at 87, was born with the possibility of artistic talent, the son of an inventive father and later the longtime husband of Pat, an accomplished artist. That Warren was surrounded by creativity for much of his life, and that he was given the chance to express artistry as a newspaper photographer and in retirement applying images on handmade paper, reveals that he took his gift and ran with it. When someone can do that -- use natural talent well -- not only does he or she grow, but so does the universe. I can only begin to imagine what he’s photographing now.

In the mentoring that was watching, borrowing technique and listening in my own early photography career, I have Andy, Al and Ken to thank. And particularly Warren, who set a high standard as a classy artist. 

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