I hope Ohio University forgives me for only attending two years well they should. After all, having spend those two years in the Photo Department to the neglect of my “important” studies, I went on to become a successful photojournalist working for the best and greatest publications. Like Paris Match for instance, one of the foremost picture magazines in the world and made that way primarily through the talent and eye of its fabulous Picture Editor, Roger Therond.
So, why “Do Dreams Matter?” While in High School and even during my University years, my good friend Phil Schulman and I, would go off pretending to be French. Yes, it all began on the subway, the Woodlawn-Jerome train (now called the ever-so-more romantic: Number 4) on our rides to Manhattan to the High School of Industrial Arts (now Art & Design).
Many times Phil and I, and on occasion, some of the girls we mobbed up with on the train, would speak fake French – the kind that Sid Caesar was speaking on his comedy show, Your Show of Shows. We sounded so convincing (at least to us) that we actually held conversation in this double-talk. It was not for naught, however,. What I never realized at the time was I was beginning to learn the ‘sounds’ of French, and when I finally learned to speak French, why I sounded nearly perfect.
Taking our fake French routine further afield, away from the subway, Phil and I tried our hand at picking up young women by posing as exotic young Frenchmen. We targeted the temp workers at Christmas time, who worked in Macy’s Department store and we would wander the store speaking our fake French to one another, then hit on the girls, most whom showed some interest in us but I must admit our failures to even hold their hands. The interesting part of this (in case this hasn’t interested you) is that before venturing off to Macy’s I bought a copy of Paris Match and carried it around with us, showing these young women the photos I supposedly took – with Phil saying he was the Art Director of the magazine.
I had to wait several years before I actually did become a photographer working for Paris Match. So, to prepare oneself for success, it helps to have a vision, a dream.
Now I can tell you the rest of the story.
Fresh back from San Juan, with several pages of photos in JUBILEE magazine – though quite a modest portfolio of tear sheets – off I went seeking assignments. Again, I was rebuffed at various publications. I went to Cosmopolitan and met with an attractive, up-and-coming magazine editor named Karen Dudley, I was all of 22, she only a year or two older. Her position as an Associate Picture Editor put her in place to never having to say “Yes” to a new photographer but rather ran interference for the Senior Picture Editor, who, as was common, had no time to meet with “wannabe” photographers.
Ms. Dudley was kind and courteous. but more importantly she liked my photography. She told me the bad news, they had a sufficient number of freelancers but she’d keep me in mind should something come up. Well that was encouraging. An associate editor of a major magazine thinking my work had merit. Karen Dudley encouraged me to keep knocking on doors. And to keep shooting.
It was around that time that I was on the Woodlawn-Jerome train to Manhattan on my way somewhere. Remember, not being able to afford to live out on my own, I still lived in the Bronx with my parents . All my pals from Ohio University who fled the Mid-West to come to the “Big Apple” were living on their own, or sharing apartments in Manhattan. Some were even making their way, like Ohio U. photo-pal Paul Fusco who had landed a job with LOOK magazine and was actually doing what we all had dreamed of doing, shooting pictures for a picture magazine. A National Picture Magazine.
So, there I was, riding the Number 4 down from Mt. Eden Avenue elevated station, to 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue – Grand Central Station. How romantic was that? That bustling, cavernous, exquisite train terminal with polished NY granite banisters. I had never been on one of the trains that rolled out of there, off to Massachusetts or Canada. I hadn’t been anywhere, yet. Feeling sorry for myself, thinking, “how was I going to act the part of the magazine photographer,” but wait! Hadn’t I just come back from San Juan, Puerto Rico? Didn’t I travel into the interior to photograph Father Landry? Didn’t I already accomplish that? Trusted with an assignment for away, across the seas…I could do it!
I took the Shuttle Train from Grand Central to Times Square, a one stop ride and a relatively ordinary trip except this day, this particular day, my life would be changed forever. The shuttle cars were crowded and I was standing in the center of the car, holding onto the white upright pole, when a man entered wearing a blue trench coat carrying a large camera bag. Much larger than my camera bag. I looked down at it and the Paris Match logo was pasted onto the top cover. I glanced up at the man. Could he be a Match photographer? I wanted to ask him. I wanted to tell him, that if he was, he was looking at someone who wanted desperately to be one, too. But, alas, I chickened out and couldn’t get to speak up and the doors opened at Times Square and as the crowd emptied from the train, he was gone in the crowd. I had missed my one opportunity to speak to him and who knows when I would ever see a French photographer, from Paris Match, again?
That night, home with my mom, I told her what had happened. She was very understanding and asked me why I hadn’t thought to look the French magazine up in the phone book and call them for an appointment. Well, in those days, living in the Bronx, all the phone company gave you was a Bronx phone book. I had to go to the Public Library to use a Manhattan book and what do you know? There is was, in black and white: “Paris Match Magazine, 22 E. 67th Street.” I called the phone number and was connected to photographer Paul Slade.
“Were you on the shuttle between Grand Central and Times Square yesterday afternoon?” I asked.
“I was,” he answered. “Why do you ask?”
I told him about how I was there, beside him, and wanted to speak to him about shooting pictures for Match but was too shy to talk to him. He responded that it wasn’t a good sign that I was too afraid to speak up, not for a journalist. He told me to bring my portfolio of photos in and meet with him the following day.
I stood in front of Paul Slade’s desk on the second floor of an an elegant four story brownstone just off Madison Avenue. Born in Brooklyn, Paul was the staff Match photographer in New York. The offices were small, actually only two rooms, one large one that had four desks with the office manage, Anni Tchaprachikoff, at one, Myles Herbert, a Match writer/reporter and reporter Philippe de Bausset. There was a smaller room, an office occupied by the Match Bureau Chief, Stephane Groueff. Paul Slade’s desk was off to the side in the big room, near a metal cabinet that contained his cameras and lenses.
Paul was impressed with my photographs and questioned me about the Jubilee magazine story then closed the book and looked me square in the eye. “You know what they do in Paris – the new and young and eager photographers? They visit Roget Therond, then sit in the hallway, yes, on the floor, outside his office, day after day waiting for an opportunity. If the magazines finds itself shorthanded, Roget snaps his fingers and chooses a photographer to go off and shoot an assignment.”
“Is that what you want from me,” I asked. “You want me to sit on the stairwell outside the office?”
He smiled at me. “No, I want you to come back here everyday, with your cameras, and work around the office, and go out on local assignments with me. For no pay.” He studied my reaction. “I’ll cover any expenses you may have. Deal?”
Was he serious? Of course we had a deal. I was one step away from becoming one of my life’s dreams. To be a Paris Match photographer. From then on I showed up in jacket and tie and Paul and Anni put me to work sorting through a whole wall of newspapers and magazines. They has subscriptions to every paper in New York and Washington D.C.,, and Newsweek, Time, U.S.News and World Report, and of course LIFE magazine. The stacks of them on a bookcase that ran the whole length of the wall and floor to ceiling were a mess, out of chronological order.
I spent weeks and weeks on a ladder working my way through the clutter until one day, Paul came into the office and looked at me and said, “Chuck, I hope you have your cameras with you today. I looked down at him from my ladder perch and told him I had my two Nikons with me, yes. “Good,” he said, “because, Fidel Castro is here, in New York.”
DREAMS MATTER! You can only Make Dreams Come True if have dreams.