Remarks by Elizabeth Greenberg at the Arnold Newman Memorial, February 2007
What an honor it is to be here today to join all of you on remembering Arnold Newman. A wonderful man who touched our lives in so many ways. It was nearly a year ago, I had the pleasure of being here in this same place to celebrate and honor the awarding of his Gold Medal, awarded by The National Arts Club. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to share with him my gratitude and immense respect for his work, and his years of friendship.
In true Arnold form though, as I went to give him a hug after speaking, he said “But you didn’t say what I wanted you to!” (even though I had said what I wanted him to hear!). I have spent these past months thinking of what he wanted me to say – of the stories he wanted me to tell – as there are many.
It has reminded me of what it was like when I first went to work for him. Starting the very fist day, he would have “message” for me. That first week, over and over again, he would tell me “you have to learn to pay attention to detail”. And that mantra rang through my head all day, and all night. Until the following week, when he began with
“You have to learn to think for yourself!” And again, this would repeat over and over in my head.
As with the weekly mantras, I have been asking myself which story it was he wanted me to tell. I have thought of many stories I could share, and as my students know, I do so love to share ‘Arnold’ stories. I have stories of finding locksmiths in far away places, needed to open a safe deposit box in a hotel where film from a shoot was stored for safe keeping, and the keys were never to be seen again. (Augusta always said that Arnold was a fabulous magician, who could make anything disappear in the blink of an eye). I could tell, stories of late nights in the darkroom, where I am certain I was the cause of needing to have the floor replaced, due to my incessant pacing back and forth. There are stories of accompanying him on shoots, to visit artists, CEOs, and even to Tunis and Israel. The most special of all the jobs I assisted him on. To travel to Israel with him, and see a place so dear to him, and so much a part of who he was, it was a once-in –a-lifetime experience, for a young photo assistant.
Arnold and I always had a funny way of getting along. I think we both thought it was our job to take care of the other. Clearly that was my job, but it worked both ways. I recall on more than one occasion, returning home on a Friday evening, to have him call with concern because he might have forgotten to pay me before the end of the day. When I began dating my husband Howard, it was very important to Arnold that he know ALL about him, and that he meet him, just to make sure he met with his approval.
When I moved to Maine to become the director of the photography programs at The Workshops, he thought it was very funny that he used to hire me, and then I was in the position to hire him. That was a story he wanted me to tell.
But months later, as it has rung through my head that I didn’t tell the story that he wanted me to last May, I think I know the story he was thinking of. It is the story of the day I told him I had to leave. Now, what he never knew, was that I had tried to plan this major event for a Friday, knowing that I probably wouldn’t want to see him the next day. So, I picked the Friday, it was a quiet day in the studio, he and Augusta were working in the office all day. Each time I thought I had mustered the courage to go in and talk to him, I would start heading that way, always with a pencil in my hand – in case I lost my nerve, and could pretend I just needed to sharpen a pencil. Well, by the end of the day, every pencil in that studio was sharp – and, I still had a job.
All that weekend it weighed on me that I needed to talk to him – so, ignoring the plan to save this for a Friday, that following Monday at the end of the day as he was sitting and working on a collage in the workroom, I went and sat down with him. I didn’t need to say anything, he already knew. Before I could get a word out, we both began to cry. He didn’t want me to abandon him, and frankly, I wasn’t all that sure how I was going to do out in the big world on my own. But he had taught me all that I needed to know, and it was time for me to fly the coop. I never really left him – even after that day, I would continue to go and assist him until I finally moved out of New York. And then it was only the following year that I had the opportunity to see him in Maine. These past seven years that I have been at The Workshops full time, I have always looked forward to his summer visits. The last few summers when Augusta was not able to join him, were also very special. We got to spend time together, and he would regale my husband and I with all of his stories. We had the opportunity to have him to our home, as he had so often included me here in New York. He is missed by our community there, as he is in many communities around the world. But I know that we will all continue to learn from him, from his art, and from his many contributions – and, for those of us who were lucky enough to call him a mentor, and a friend, he will always be a with us. He will never really be gone.