Thinking back over the six years that I knew Arnold, I am trying to find a way to show how much he changed my life. I first met Arnold when I was eighteen years old and a work-study student at the Maine Photography Workshops. I waited in line for a half hour to show him a stack of twenty matted prints from a new portfolio. "Your subjects aren't famous," he said as he looked through the images, "but your photographs make them feel familiar. I want you to come see me in New York, and would you mind if I show these to my wife, Gus?"
I think, most of all, I want to write about the first summer I spent working for Arnold. During the summer of 2002, I interned and assisted at his studio on West 67th street in Manhattan. I worked five days a week, from 9:30 to 6:00 with a half-hour for lunch. Throughout the summer, Arnold let me stay after work to print my own photographs in his darkroom. Many days, I came in early in the morning and stayed there until after midnight. While working for him I assisted on photo shoots, developed negatives, printed in the darkroom, sent out orders, maintained the studio, did office work, took dictation and ran errands.
One morning I asked Arnold what it felt like to be famous. "I don't feel like I'm famous," he said, "People don't recognize me on the street, except once in a while." Later he commented that being famous does open doors. "I hate the people who think that they're better than anyone else…Penn wasn't like that. Avedon was, but I heard he did good things under the table, so I can't say what my opinion is." Arnold was still invited to the major art receptions in New York City. Like anyone who has flipped through his books or walked through a gallery of his prints, I knew that Arnold met and photographed many of the icons of the 20th century. In many cases, he helped to create the images by which they are remembered.
It was an eventful summer. Arnold had a highly publicized retrospective in France, sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture. He photographed Saul Bellows, Charles Seliger, Peter Gabriel and Ehud Barak. The Professional Photographers of America (PPofA) also honored him with a lifetime achievement award at their annual convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The day before he left, Arnold wrote his acceptance speech. I took dictation. After a brief thank you to the society and to photographers everywhere, he dedicated the award to his wife Augusta. "She is truly the greatest award I have ever received," he said. As I typed, Arnold's voice cracked, became nasal and high pitched. In the narrow workroom, cluttered by stacks of art and a lifetime of negatives and prints, he started to cry. "I may be hard to work for," he said, "but I'm a great husband." As I handed him a copy of the speech for him to proof read, Arnold mumbled, "next to your wife, the rest is wallpaper."
Arnold, as both a boss, a mentor and later a friend, taught me to think of myself as a photographer. Moreover, he taught me to be a good person first and a good photographer second. Towards the end of that summer, Arnold had me pick up a pair of pants for him at the tailor's. Because he had misplaced the receipt, he took out one of his business cards and wrote, "Please give Lucas Foglia my trousers," signed "Arnold Newman." More than the letters of recommendation that he has written for me, more than the personal letters and emails we exchanged over the following years, I am keeping that card. If only he had sent me to pick up a pair of shoes.