Saturday, May 30, 2020

John Loengard - A Photographer With Style - Sept 5, 1934 – May 24, 2020

Anna Loengard - John Loengard - 1975

The chances that the death of this man on May 24 will be paraded by the ambulance chasers of social media are probably nill.

Before continuing I must point out that I never met the man, never saw him from far away nor did I ever pick up from the pavement a cigarette that he may have smoked.

Loengard was a man I admired because not only was he a noted magazine photographer he also wrote well of his experiences of being one.

The longtime Life magazine photographer and photo editor John Loengard, as captured by his Life colleague Alfred Eisenstaedt in an undated photo. In 2005, American Photo magazine ranked Mr. Loengard 80th among the 100 most important people in photography.

Since I can remember, probably when I learned to read, I have loved magazines and I have been enthralled by them. The pleasure (particularly considering the present pandemic situation) of turning pages in a Life Magazine and licking one’s fingers to be able to do so, brings thoughts on the taste of the ink and the feel of the pages and the rustling noise they would make.

I was 10 when my grandmother purchased a subscription of Mecánica Popular, perhaps a couple of years before I had first seen American Heritage Magazine at the Lincoln Library on Calle Florida in Buenos Aires. It was in that magazine that I saw my first photographs of live and dead soldiers of the American Civil War taken my Timothy O'Sullivan.

In Mexico I would buy magazines that had photographs that showed Brigitte Bardot’s handsome cleavage. Cleavage competed with car magazines like Mechanix Illustrated where chaps like 
John McCahill would inform me how many horses the engine of a Chrysler 300 might have or what a Torqueflite transmission was all about.

In the late 50s I saw my first photographs of semi-undraped females in  Playboys and Esquires at the American Hotel in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico.

By 1977 I was working for Vancouver Magazine and for many more of the best Canadian magazines like Saturday Night. Some of my photographs were then published in magazines around the world.

Jennifer Loengard - John Loengard - 1983
If I take a picture of my daughter, our relationship changes and she is not my daughter any more. She could just as easily be the Duchess of Malfi. If she says, "Oh, Dad, not now!" I'll treat her exactly as I woud Georgia O'Keeffe if she said, "Oh, Mr Loengard, please not now!" In my head I think, "There is a beautiful picture here and by God, short of murder, I'm going to get it. So shut up and hold still!" But what I say is : "You look wonderful. I'll just take a minute. It's marvelous. We're doing something very special."

I learned the part about a minute from a dentist. I learned the rest from Carl Mydans. For the magazine's thirtieth birthday, Life photographers were asked to photograph each other. Carl was assigned to me. To see such an intelligent and distinguished man concentrating on the problem of taking my picture was extremely flattering. Still I felt tense. After all I was being scrutinized. Carl kept telling me what wonderful pictures were being made. I believed him, and soon I relaxed. I was a success at being a subject!

 (You should tell these things to a person as you photograph him - even if it is a lie - which in this case it was. Life photographers as it turned out, could photograph anything in the world except each other.)
John Loengard

One of the photographers that was dear to me was Loengard. I wrote a few blogs about him. In one I placed a photograph (a selfie, too!) that he took of his daughter Jennifer as a little girl. It was the lead shot to this blog of his other daughter Anna who announced her father’s death as written in this NY Times Obituary.

It is because I am 77 that I am blind to photographic style in this century. I assert there isn’t one. I hope I am wrong. I wonder who will be the Loengard’s of the future and if there will be magazines (with glossy paper) that will amply reproduce their photographs for us to notice, admire, copy, emulate and perhaps even have then help us acquire a style of our own.