During the Summer of the '60s I was a young art student newly arrived from communist Poland, earning my tuition money by attempting a rather unsuccessful career as a waiter in Provincetown, Cape Cod. On a verge of desperation and ready to return to NY, I was introduced to Arnold Newman by our mutual friend, the late Ilya Schor, a fabulous expatriate painter and sculptor. Ilya was aware of my interest in photography since I used to photograph his artwork and share my work with him. Arnold, who was already a world famous portrait photographer, had a summerhouse in Provincetown and was at the time on assignment for Horizon Magazine, taking portraits of some of the greatest American painters living on the Cape Cod. After just a brief conversation with Arnold about my past experience and aspirations he graciously offered me a job as his assistant. What a joy!
Rather than waiting on over-sexed middle-aged ladies or fighting on their behalf with lousy cooks I got my chance to carry Arnold's equipment and meet face to face an incredible group of artists such as Edward Hopper, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffmann, etc. This experience not only brought me back to what I loved as a painter but also enabled me to observe how a great photographer functions in the field, composes his images, and directs his subjects. Arnold's care for every detail within his picture frame impressed me tremendously and has remained with me as a norm for my own professional life. Soon after the assignment was over, Arnold (to my great delight) offered me a job in his New York studio, and here through a twist of destiny our paths have separated.
On a cold Fall morning, when I was boarding the overheated subway on my way from my Brooklyn apartment to commence my dream job, I fell ill and never made it to Arnold's upper West side studio. After recapturing my composure I called Arnold but no explanation would satisfy his anger. He hung up his phone on me, and that was the end of it.
Ten years later, as an already three-year "veteran" of the New York photography scene, I accidentally bumped into Arnold during an ASMP event. This time he was more receptive to my explanation of my missing appearance. It has worked miracles, and that decisive moment turned our relationship to close friendship. It lasted until our last encounter as his guest at a ceremony of his Life Achievement Award at the Gramercy Park Art Society several days before his death.
He and his wonderful wife Gus were kind enough to embrace my entire family as a part of their own. He's always found an opportunity to introduce me to the world as his assistant. And I loved it! I've welcomed the endless hours spent together in their home, or shall I say a museum of contemporary art…full of gifts from his world-renowned photo subjects, dining, joking and rehashing our life experiences. Of course, there will never be another storyteller like Arnold. His professional life experience brought him face to face with "who's who" of 20th century art, politics and commerce. We would devour his detailed and frequently hysterical stories about Picasso, Stravinsky, Krupp, etc. and sometime take pleasure in a second and third serving of the same. I have begged him to put it all down in writing, and according to his own words, he began working on his diary. Unfortunately, I am afraid his sudden death wouldn't allow him to complete it. And what a pity that only those lucky enough to have personal contact with him will be able to relive his precious moments with the giants of the last century.
Arnold was extremely enthusiastic toward my own work and curious about my own past. He had shown great personal interest toward my multi-image photography and was completely open to digital imaging. Considering his traditional education he couldn't care less how an image was produced as long as the end result would count for a creative success. To top it off he's honored me by trading some of my images for his own. I shall cherish them, and miss him dearly as long as I live.