S H OT Bern­stein at work

Joe McNally

NPhoto - - Sneak Peek At Our March Issue -

Joe McNally is a Nikon Leg­end Be­hind the Lens. His im­ages have been printed in Life and Na­tional Ge­o­graphic. His pho­to­graphs are held in nu­mer­ous col­lec­tions, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery of the United States and the Li­brary of Congress. In the wake of 9/11, Joe used the world’s only life-size Po­laroid cam­era for his Faces of Ground Zero ex­hi­bi­tion, which raised $2 mil­lion for the re­lief ef­fort. Awards Joe has won in­clude the Al­fred Eisen­staedt Award for mag­a­zine pho­tog­ra­phy. www.joem­c­nally.com Most pho­tog­ra­phers can be de­fined by one sub­ject area, but Joe McNally is harder to la­bel. He de­scribes him­self as a ‘gen­er­al­ist’, able to turn his hand to any­thing, which is prob­a­bly why Life mag­a­zine made him their first staff pho­tog­ra­pher in 23 years when he was ap­pointed to the role in 1994. Choos­ing his best shot is a far from easy task.

How­ever, McNally has cho­sen this pho­to­graph of the com­poser Leonard Bern­stein work­ing at his home in Con­necti­cut. “It has a lot of mean­ing for me in terms of an in­ter­sec­tion with an artist, ob­serv­ing an artist at work,” says McNally. “It was pub­lished in Life mag­a­zine. It was a story about him turn­ing 70.”

McNally spent two days with the leg­endary com­poser of West Side Story. “I had worked with him a num­ber of times, so I knew what I was get­ting into,” McNally re­calls. “He was very much a vol­cano of a man. He could erupt, but he was also gre­gar­i­ous and bril­liant and won­der­ful and spon­ta­neous, and all those things you as­so­ciate with be­ing a con­sum­mate artist.”

For­tu­nately, Bern­stein was in a good mood on this par­tic­u­lar day: “I think he en­joyed the idea of be­ing in Life mag­a­zine and hav­ing that at­ten­tion be­ing paid to him at that point in his life. He was re­ally writ­ing mu­sic when I pho­tographed him.”

McNally used a 24mm lens on his Nikon F3, loaded with Ko­dachrome 64, and brought flash heads to sup­ple­ment the other light sources within the frame. “It’s all flash-lit in­side, but the main light in the pho­to­graph is the work lamp on the piano. I just turned it so it’s on the sheet of mu­sic.

The re­ac­tion

McNally says, “As an en­vi­ron­men­tal por­trait I would say it is one of my more suc­cess­ful por­traits. In terms of be­ing a suc­cess­ful pic­ture of an artist at work, I think it’s a pretty good one. Life ran it as a two-page spread.”

Ac­cord­ing to McNally, the pic­ture was placed “no­tably” in a cou­ple of photo com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing Pic­tures of the Year. It was one of the last pic­tures taken of Bern­stein in his home – he died two years later in 1990.

Keith Wil­son

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