Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dylan Michael Moore: A Great Beginning

About 7 years ago, I walked into Gleason's gym on a very hot August day. The 3 rings were filled with boxers. 2 rings had 4 or 5 people in each one of them going through different protocols. There were 2 young men in a full-blown sparring session. I didn't know either one of them. I walked over towards the red corner and started to recalibrate my white balance. A gentleman came over, drank some water, looked at me, and said, "If I have one loss, my career will be over and I'll be back to being an electrician". He was sweating profusely, he had beautiful intense eyes, and under his 2-day beard, a great smile. Little did I know then that James Moore was going to be the focal point for my film In This Corner. Why, you may ask? Because I didn't go to Gleason's to shoot a feature documentary, but rather a 15-minute teaching vignette on JoAnne Kalish's action photography DVD. I'm pretty sure anyone who knows me has heard me say that the first rule of photojournalism/documentary films is never become friends with the protagonists. That is not your job. Your job is to record what they do in the most honest and sincere way with no prejudice and no rooting for a winner. I will share a quote with you from Cliff Edom. (Cliff Edom is the father of modern photojournalism and was, and in some ways, still is, the backbone of the University of Missouri School of Journalism photo workshop).

"Show truth with a camera. Ideally, truth is a matter of personal integrity. In no circumstances will a posed or a fake photograph be tolerated."
     ~Clifton C. Edom

Sunday June 26 2011, I will remember vividly. That's the day that I shut down the Lady Liberty ferry for approximately 55 minutes and later that day I attended James and Leanne Moore son's christening. And he was christened with a beautiful name. Dylan Michael Moore. You just have to love the name Dylan Michael. At this point, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that I have all the respect in the world for event photographers. It's not something that I know how to do properly or particularly like doing. So please enjoy some of the snapshots of the christening party.
©Dylan Michael

I think I bent one of the rules.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Life After September 11th

Suffice to say as you travel through life, a myriad of things are going to change. In the 60's, they changed radically but not that quickly. In the 70's, they skipped along, but again there wasn't that much urgency. In the 80's, I think we fell asleep - I'm not sure. Most of it was a blur. Hmm... could have something to do with - oh, never mind. Then along came the 90's and I don't know who it was, maybe it was 3, 4, or 5 people from silicon valley that decided to inject our eyes, ears, and noses with the most advanced super-amphetamines that were available. We all took off on a light speed adventure with no brakes. Well, here we are in 2011 and every once in a while I feel like I'm on the world's largest Mercedes Grand Touring Bus, alone, sitting in the last large seat by the lavatory and the bus is made of paper mache. I can't see the driver,  but we're on the Monte Carlo Formula One Street Circuit. I'm not wearing a seatbelt, and am being bounced up, down, left, and right like a cue ball in a maze with zero control. Right about now many of you are wondering, where the hell is he going? Hey guys, I ask myself that at least 20 or 30 times a day.
Sunday was a normal workshop day. I went to sleep the night before at 10PM, got up at 4AM, was on the road by 6AM, got to Battery Park at 7:30AM, met with the group at 8AM, tickets by 8:30AM. I remember one of the last things I said was "Let's try and stay together until we get to Liberty Island." I was 6 people behind John and there were 3 or 4 people of age between him and I. So, I made an executive decision not to be a bull in the china shop and wait my turn. As I approached the security line, I darted right to get behind John. A security gentleman, approximately 5 feet tall, said to me "GO ON THIS LINE!" I said, "Sir, my class...". He said "I'm not going to tell you again, go on this line." I went on the line. Approximately 7 of the 8 lines were moving rapidly. My line didn't move a millimeter in 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, I should mention to you that I had no jewelry shoes or belt on, no wallet, no cellphone, no camera, & no keys on me. For all intensive purposes, I was naked but clothed. My wallet was open to a laminated card to inform security that I had 2 titanium hips. The card was issued by the New York Hospital for Special Surgery. When I finally arrived to go through my screening, I asked the young lady to look at the card she said "No, we don't have to." I also carry a letter with large type from the Doctor for security checks concerning my hips and offered it to her and she said "No, we don't need to look at that either. Just go through the screening." I said that the machine was going to go crazy. She insisted I move to the duct-tape mark on the floor, which I did. 

 At this point, I should say something - I don't deal well with indiscriminate power authority but, I do have the utmost respect for my fellow human being - man or woman, especially in this type of work. I made a decision at this point to keep my big mouth shut and just say yes to everything. My class had now disappeared, somewhere on the 9 o'clock ferry, and I'm still in security. A gentleman called me forward, the machine went crazy, he asked me to go back and I did. The machine went crazy again and he asked me to repeat this a third time. I said I had a card to explain things. He said, "No, we don't need to see that." The machine went mashugana! He told me he was going to pat me down, I said fine. He patted me down approximately twice on the back and sides, and 3 times in the front and sides. At this point, he didn't understand why the left and the right side was going crazy on his meter. So I simply opened my pants and dropped them down to above my knees to show him I had nothing to hide. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the best idea I had on a Sunday morning. By the way, there's an expression- TMI. When I'm on a shoot, or location, I always wear my running shorts under my normal pants. And it's not uncommon for me, especially on a hot day, to take my trousers off and proceed the rest of the day with my running shorts on. I did not moon anyone. Now I'm thinking "Okay, another 10 seconds and I'm out of here." Boy, was I wrong! There were 4, 5, or 6 people huddled around the x-ray machine. The 4, 5, or 6 people then called 3 or 4 more people with different uniforms. They looked at the screen, got on the walkie-talkies oops! I guess they're radios. Several other people came in, also with different uniforms, all looking at the screen. The first 5 peeled off, the next 3 moved away, the new 3 looking at the screen and then 2 gentlemen came over to me and wanted to know what was in the tray. I said "A camera, my beret, a small black bag, an extra battery, a Power Bar, lens cleaning cloths, several wire ties, an electronic cable release, business cards, a 6-inch homemade monopod, a small Sartek video light, lifesavers, a film can with some potassium pills in it, and 4 Aleves. Last but not least, one red and one blue bandana." The police officer asked me "what else," and I told him that was it. He said "there had to be something else in there." I said "Not that I can remember- oh maybe some business cards and some small photo postcards". "What else?" he demanded. I said "Sir, that's it." I asked to make a suggestion and he said no. I mentioned that I would take everything out of my bag for visual inspection. He said, "No, don't tell me how to do my job." I said that I was sorry and didn't mean to tell him how to do his job, I was just trying to help. "I don't need any help from you. Stand  in the corner and don't say another word." Well, I stood in the corner and didn't say another word while 3 or 4 more people came in, now a total of about 30 plus. They cleared out everybody from the staging area, both left and right side. I was then asked to move to a holding spot about 50 yards away, which I did, accompanied by 2 police officers. Then, in came Rin-Tin-Tin. Rin-Tin-Tin is a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd. A beautiful dog, but unfortunately my guess is that he was over 11 years old. He could not jump up on the belt to smell my bag. They tried 4 or 5 times calling him up and then finally picked him up and put him on the belt. He went over to the X-Ray machine and smelled my bag. He turned and appeared to be perplexed. They put his nose back on the bag, and again he turned, as if to say, "Why am I here? There are no explosives". To be honest, I think 40 or 50 people were disappointed that I did not bring a b--- into the holding station for Liberty Island. I'm still 50 yards away from my wallet, accessories, and camera, and they decide to do a visual inspection. I asked the police officers if it would be okay, if I could go over to watch the inspection. They grudgingly said yes. They took everything out of everything! My potassium pills mixed in some some kind of lint - not good. They then questioned me on 4 items and wanted to know what they were. I held it up, showed them the name, and told them. "It's a Canon electronic cable release.""What's this?""That's a replacement battery for the camera and what is this? "It's a homemade mini-monopod that I use to insert into the base of the 1/4 twenty, which, I then showed him how I did it. They wanted to know what the pills were for and whether I had a prescription for them. I said no, they were over the counter stuff and it was potassium for cramping and Aleve if I got a headache. I said, "Are we done?" and they said "Not exactly." They said I had to go over to the X-Ray machine and show them what something was. They pointed to me where the b--- was. I asked if I could take a picture of the screen to show him how never to pack a bag, trying to be funny now being over 50 minutes into the ordeal. I threw everything together back into my bag, and he goes, "We need to fill out a report in main office." I asked if it was really necessary, and he said he needed to see my identification. I showed him my press card and he said that he needed something better than that, so I gave him my driver's license and went to his office.We filled out the forms and he asked me if he could he photocopy the inside of my bag. So, not thinking, I said "Sure" So, he laid everything on the photocopy machine - duh! You can't photocopy 3-D stuff. I suggested to photograph it. I took his iPhone and took a picture for him to send to his boss. Now, the ordeal is now over - but not exactly! The police officer said, "Have you ever done any TV shows?"  I said yes, and he said "are you a photographer?" At that point he asked if I would give his daughter some private lessons. I gave him one of my instructional DVD's and my phone number. He gave me his card and a free ticket to the top of Lady Liberty for my inconvenience. He put his hand out, I shook it, and he said that he was only doing his job. I said, "Yes, I understand". As I climbed to the second deck there were approximately, stretching around Castle Clinton.  

I guess this is the price we pay for September 11. (See below a recreation of the so called bomb in my bag)

TIME Magazine Assignment

I had a half hour off the other day. Decided to just look through some of my old TIME magazine and Sports Illustrated assignments and I stumbled across this photo that I did for them to celebrate the opening of Giant Stadium. I was totally blown away when I heard they were going to build a new stadium. It seems like yesterday they just built a new stadium. Of course, a businessman friend of mine explained that it's all about the super boxes and the Fortune 500. Well, considering my only interest is between the goal line and the goal line, a super box just doesn't do it for me. If TIME asks me to go and shoot the new one, it's gonna take me a little longer to get to the birds' eye perch.  See you at the game!
Joe D.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monochromatic? I don't think so!

Whatever level you are as a photographer, we all should have one thing in common. We should constantly be looking and looking. And after we look, we should be able to see. As I was rushing to the D-Train in Brooklyn, I saw something you don't see very often- a pay phone! I stopped, I picked the camera up, and I make 3 quick frames. 2 vertical, one horizontal. 135 f/2 Singh-Ray High-Intensity. Half a stop overexposed. It may not be an antique, but it'll probably be a buggy whip by the time I go to the dark room in the sky. Oops! I mean the light room in the sky! To all the ships at sea, keep your eyes wide open. Start to see the photograph and then record it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frame Grab

I'm not quite sure that the Lumiere brothers are not rolling around in their graves right now. Rapidly followed by W. Gene Smith and Gordon Parks. The more I know about this medium the less I know. If I'm running at 100 MPH forward, I'm probably in reverse. But, I promise myself I'll try to keep up. This photograph is pretty amazing. Enjoy!
Following blog post by Vincent LaForet.


What camera did I use to make this still picture?

Go ahead and guess what camera was used to make this photograph in the comments above.    It was made with a new camera that many photographers have not yet heard of… I suggest you click on the image above to see it at full resolution (and make sure you zoom in to 100%) Some of you will guess right away and already know about it…   Others will be astonished when I reveal what camera shot this photograph.    It’s a camera that has the potential to change things – radically.__________________________________________________________________________________________
ANSWER: This image is actually a FRAME GRAB.   It was not shot with a STILL camera but with the RED EPIC M digital cinema camera at 96 frames per second. For the techies:  The image was made with a Zeiss Compact Prime 25mm f 2.9 ,  natural light,  at  T 2.9 , 1/200th of a second at 800 ASA in RED’s RAW R3D format – a RAW format similar to aCR2 or NEF (for Canon and Nikon users respectively.)  
The camera’s "cinema" resolution is 5K – more than five times the resolution of your HD Television (see chart below)…     Other than a quick color correction – no enhancement whatsoever has been made to this image. Perhaps just as importantly : there were 95 other frames that were shot EACH SECOND that I rolled on the camera… 95 other shots to choose from… shot handheld on a moving subject – not posed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"In a world that seems to be moving at light speed, the new technologies should be embraced.  We as visual communicators should always remember the photograph comes first.  The content is more important than the pixels or the manipulation after the fact.
My love affair for this medium has only grown ten-fold.  With the advent of digital it’s like starting all over again.  Our future generations will look back at this time the way we looked back to the Lumiere brothers. What a great time to be involved in photography and filmmaking."
                                                            ~Joe DiMaggio

Mermaid Parade

I remember my mother and father taking me to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Sitting on top of my dad's shoulders and looking at the giant floats, the beautiful colors, the great music, and here we are a couple of years later spending the day at Coney Island at the Mermaid Parade. My new policy is one camera, one lens, two batteries, two cards. This time, I chose to test a new lens, a  135 f/2. Last year's parade, I used a 10-22mm. Obviously, a huge change! But, changing it up is a good thing. What I'm about to say is not a scientific fact. It appeared to me for every person in the parade, there were 3 photographers. I could be off, but I'm not that far off.

Photos © Joe Dimaggio

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

As a photographer, one of the first things you learn is eye-hand coordination. Your ability to look at 300 people or 7 people - front-lit, back-lit, and see the photo that you want to make. Before you even think about it, you've made 3 or 4 different photos, each one a variation of a theme, not just a motor sequence. Making back lit adjustments on the fly, always thing about where the next photograph is going to come. That's the good news. The bad news can be all of those things that work against you - and you miss the obvious. It's happened to me before, and I'm pretty sure it'll happen to me again. You never want to have blinders on. You want to be open to new lighting, new composition, new stories, and new direction. Invariably, you will grow and your work will improve accordingly. While looking at this very beautiful young lady and preparing to do a very shallow, depth of field simple photograph, I look down and to my right and saw one eye and one sideburn and a little bit of a mustache. I said "Oh my god, could that be Melchior  DiGiacomo?" I took the photograph, looked down, I tapped him on the shoulder, and he said "Joe D., just a minute". I guess it's like two chubby Italians meeting in the daylight, or is that two ships in the night? I can never get it right. The funny thing about it is I haven't seen Melchoir in 30 years. And my God, nothing's changed! It's good that there is some consistency in this universe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pete Hamill: Perfection

As a working photographer for my whole life, I've always had a love-hate relationship with writers. And I think most writers would not only agree, but they would agree with much finer pros. When we teach photography, invariably one word comes up, and that's "perfection". In reality, nothing is perfect.
When you think you've seen everything, all of a sudden Pete Hamill, with all of his great editing skills and a history of journalism that transcends 6 decades, you would figure he would go out to pasture. Or, do old writers put the cover on their Remington typewriters? Well, he didn't do either. Tabloid City is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I read it once and I'm now re-reading it for a second time. He's taken everything he's learned in all those years and crammed it into a few pages. You can't put it down! Pete, thank you so much. What a wonderful book. You've proved the old adage- you get better with age. It's perfect!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Queue the Rapids!

I was contracted by the Canadian Olympic Association to photograph basketball, boxing, soccer, track and field, and kayaking. I fell in love with kayaking and proceeded to kayak for the next 20 years and moved to ocean kayaking. One of the things that I used kayaking for was eye-hand coordination and remote photography. Will try to dig out some of the film- Yes, Alice, there was film in those days! I'll see if I can show you a few examples. But, in the interim, every once and a while I like to take the rust off and go photograph kayaking. Here are a few frames. Hope you enjoy them. Shutter speed ranged between a 500 and 1000, ISO 200. 80 to 200 mm lens. Pick a number- f4.5.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You Are The Future and The Future Is Now

 ©Joe DiMaggio
There is an old adage when all else fails tell the truth. It's something I genuinely believe in.  The new word today is "transparency" - tough to stay up with the brave new world!  About 20 years ago I had a conversation with one of the most powerful women in the world of photography.  She took a $50,000 corporation and turned it into the second largest agency in the world and sold it for upwards of thirty-million dollars.  I said to Sally, I guess I'm 20 years behind the time and she said that it was the exact opposite and that I was way ahead of my time.  It was a wonderful compliment but I'm not sure if I actually believed it.  When the technology came for the motor drives, I did not embrace it. The next big leap was auto programming and I did not embrace this. Shortly afterwards, autofocusing came out and I did an interview and was quoted as saying my clients want me to focus the camera - I'm not a grandfather yet!  Need I say, I did not embrace that technology either? I've been making photographs on film for 5 decades. When digital came out I did not embrace it.  Is it possible that one man could be wrong about so many things? I'm afraid the answer is yes.

Of course, in 2011, I utilize all this new technology. There is no doubt that when you use these tools properly you'll be rewarded. Wiebetech has given me an opportunity to not be 20 years behind the times but actually to be 20 years ahead of the time. The combination of the big three - The Double Barreled Derringer (ToughTech Duo), The Little Gun (RTX220-QR) and the Big Gun (RTX800-IR) give me a tremendous advantage in filing, storing and retrieving all of my photographs and films.  It is definitively the best technology today and to be honest, probably for a long time to come. Wiebetech has allowed me for the first time in a long time, to be ahead of the curve. I strongly recommend that every advanced photographer and filmmaker incorporates this technology to protect their life's work. We all travel different roads and have different motivations and needs but with your solutions we will have choices. Thanks so much.  Keep up the great work.

Joe DiMaggio

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blog on Blog

I was in a pre-production meeting last week with an old client, a new creative director, and a young lady who was in charge of social media. You know what? They didn't teach us this stuff in school. It's downright amazing how fast things are moving. Trying to keep up is a full-time job. Actually, that's not a bad idea. We need to get 2 or 3 interns- one for blogging, one for tweeting, and one for starting the car in case somebody puts a bomb in it. On that note, to all the ships at sea, we've got another blog! Here's the link.

Adorama Inaugural Street Fair

My dear friend Monica Cipnic asked me if I would come and do a few programs for the Adorama Inaugural Street Fair. My answer was, "Of course!" She put me in contact with Brian Green, who is Vice President of Marketing. Two phone calls, one email, and we were ready to go. To say the program was successful is really an understatement. They had over 9,000 attendees and it was a great cross-section of photographers, beginners to well-seasoned pros. And the bottom line is: It was a lot of fun. I managed to squeeze in 3 separate programs, and from the response on Facebook, that was pretty successful. (Notice how I'm throwing around all those high-tech, modern things like "Facebook"? You didn't think I knew what that was, did you? If it's good enough for Lady Gaga and President Obama, who am I to say it's not cool?) Hopefully, this will be just the first of many. Thank the powers that be for the opportunity.

Joe DiMaggio

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Joellen VanOuwerkerk: Artist Extraordinaire

                                                   ©Joellen VanOuwerkerk

"My wife, Joellen VanOuwerkerk has been training at Gleason's Gym for the past 18 years.  She switched to boxing after getting her Black Belt in karate. She spars for two hours every Saturday morning. This keeps her in great physical and mental condition to go home to her real love and job since graduating from The University of Wisconsin with an MFA Degree and a BFA Degree.

She is represented by The Woodward Gallery, located in New York City at 133 Eldridge Street.  Their website is: They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 6 PM and Sunday from 12 to 5 PM.

Joellen's most recent Opening was January 29 through March 19, 2011.  The show was magnificent and very successful.

You can see her work on or

American Arts Quarterly reviewed Joellen's January show in their Spring 2011 issue."
     ~ Bruce Silverglade, owner of Gleason's Gym.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wheeler at MOMA

I know everyone who attended the photo retreat on Memorial Day weekend- Every person, to a man and a woman all said the same thing. They absolutely loved Dennis Wheeler. The idea of sharing my 30 plus years relationship with Dennis with the students worked out better than I expected. To say Dennis is a master of the arts would be an understatement. He's a Renaissance man on steroids. Every time I feel a visual block getting ready to bite me on the butt I call Dennis and invite myself to his farm, where he proceeds to motivate me to get off my duff and start producing work. I sat listening to every word that Dennis spoke and watching the faces of the participants and guests at the party. It was a beautiful thing. Here are a couple of comments.

"Thank you for inviting me to the Retreat/Party.  It was an enjoyable experience, in which I learned a great deal about photography, creativity and myself.  Meeting Dennis Wheeler gave me new insight into questions that remained unanswered until his down to earth, realism in his lecture.  

"The Retreat was a great success on all levels.  Hope to see you on June 12, 2011 in Lower Manhattan. All the best." 
     ~Ralph Mocciola

"A special thank you to Dennis Wheeler for demonstrating that creativity does not stop at 60 - whatever - years old!"
     ~Linda Pedersen

"It is hard to put into words what this past visit with you has meant.  I find the below a step in the process of putting into words what occurred at your home and Learning Center.  That said, I look forward to further workshops that explore what the below author suggests, and what Dennis Wheeler demonstrated."
     ~David Kenny

"I had a wonderful time, learned a lot, got to exchange ideas with a great group of photographers, had an opportunity to listen and learn from an accomplished artist (Dennis Wheeler)..."
     ~Ann Raine

"Thank you for a most wonderful day, I think it was better than any of us could have imagined.  It was a great experience to sit around and talk about the arts and meet and spend time with Dennis, and to be topped off with some great music with Bobby and the boys.  But the best was the hospitality you, Joe and Dylan exhibited by opening your home to us and ensuring that we all had a marvelous day.  Thanks again, and look forward to seeing everyone again, real soon."
     ~Jeffery Thomas

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wet Willy

John Iacono from Sports Illustrated and I have been friends for as long as I can remember, and my former next door neighbor and fishing partner. There is no doubt in my mind that he's one of the greatest sports photographers of our time. And yes, he's a drop-dead sweet guy. I have never heard one bad word about Johnny Eye. Having said that, I think he should keep his tongue out of my ear. I'm not going to tell you where his right hand is. By the way, his right hand was on his high-speed Nikon camera. And I know that because I could hear the mirror box in my left ear.  Let's be honest- if nothing else, we always have a lot of fun! You can tell by the look on my face. I'm just so giddy!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Student Becomes the Instructor


     Well, next year it'll have been 30 years since I loaded film into your Nikons at the 1982 Indy 500.  It was a complete thrill to finally be able to work the other side of the fence after growing up at the track each May tagging along with my Dad.  Of course things have changed a bit since then.  In addition to the digital revolution, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has undergone a major facelift and is a World-class facility.  I started shooting the 500 for Reuters in 1990 and have been back ever since.  Last year, I had the honor of having my college-aged daughter, Ainslie, join the family "business" and become the 4th generation of Millers to pick up a camera at the 500.  Back at the 1982 you captured the memorable image of the Johncock/Mears finish, and who knew that 24 years later in 2006 I'd repeat the feat by capturing the Hornish/Andretti finish that would appear double-trucked in SI as well as the NY Times.


Geoff Miller

     I am so proud of you not only as a photographer but as one hell of a fine human being. There are very few young people that would give up their bed back in the day so we could get to the Indy 500 at 5 A.M. to beat the traffic. And like many of my assistants, you did so much more than just load film into my Nikons. Without your help, that photograph would not have been done. It's something that I've been aware of my whole life. We tend to think we work in isolation. We tend to think how important we are. But the same way that Rick Mears would say "It's a team effort", I say the same thing. We worked as a team. Your work is amazing. You deserve everything that you get and some more. And who knows- maybe in the next couple of years, we'll have an opportunity to work together again. Keep on shooting and remember the first rule of photographing racecars: Never turn your back on one. 

     Joe D.

All photos ©Geoff Miller

10 Greatest Indy 500 Moments

DiMaggio's photo selected as one of the 10 Greatest Indianapolis 500 Moments. His photo was selected number three. With a little bit of practice, maybe number one!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 6, 1944

Joyce and Jess
67 years ago, one of my closest friends and one of the bravest men I've ever met in my life, Jess Weiss, hit the beaches at Normandy along with 10,000 of his brothers.  Many of those men never made it off the beach.  During the invasion, Jess lost many dear friends and in 1961, his friend, Private J. Mello, body was finally retrieved and sent to Boston. Memorial Day may have just come and gone, but we should never ever forget the sacrifice that these men made for their country. Their sacrifice allows me and you to live in the greatest country in the world. Free. To do what we want to do and when we want to do it. For the record, Jess won 7 or 8 medals, purple hearts, and the silver star. Thank you, Jess.


Posted on Fri, Jun. 03, 2011 02:13 PM

A new World War II documentary honors a long day's dying at Omaha Beach


McClatchy Newspapers

They remember because the young medic was just a kid, a 15-year-old who used his brother's driver's license to fake his way into the Army. And they remember because how could you ever forget seeing a human being instantly reduced to a cloud of red mist when a Nazi shell explodes and releases a 7,000-mile-an-hour tornado of red-hot shrapnel?
Sixty-seven years later, the memory of the boy's death on a Normandy beach - he was crouched over a wounded man when the shell hit, administering bandages and sulfa drugs, just as he'd been taught - still reduces the old soldiers to tears.
"That's a rough thing to talk about," apologizes one.
There are so many deaths to talk about in "Surviving D-Day," the Discovery Channel's captivating, infuriating, terrifying and heartbreaking documentary on the 1944 Allied invasion of France that opened the final chapter of World War II. Men were ripped in half by German machine guns that fired 25 bullets a second, and they were blown to bits by 17,000 German landmines buried on the beach.
They drowned when they parachuted into open fields that American intelligence didn't know were flooded, and they were shot point-blank in the face in a suicide attack up a sheer cliff to destroy artillery that American intelligence didn't know had moved.
They died in little pieces, like the boy on the beach, and they died without a mark on their bodies, their internal organs mangled by concussion waves of super-compressed air pushed outward at thousands of feet a second by the explosion of artillery rounds. They died in such incomprehensible numbers that survival was even more incomprehensible.
"I had severe guilt for surviving," recalls one Normandy vet who recounts crawling through stacks of corpses and mounds of severed limbs. "I kept saying, 'Why me?'"
The answer, as "Surviving D-Day" shows over and over again, is almost certainly mere chance.
Airing two days before the invasion's anniversary, the documentary does not purport to be a comprehensive account of the Normandy operation. It concentrates almost exclusively on the bloodiest and most snafu-ridden of the invasion's five beachheads, the one code named Omaha. And it dwells on the quirky, random nature of mortality in war.
A horrifying number of men died because of what they ate for breakfast that morning on the ships carrying them to France. Navy cooks, hoping to build morale, laid out a sumptuous spread of steak, eggs and ice cream, which morphed into crippling seasickness on the landing craft lurching toward the beach through rough seas at H-Hour.
Crouched on their knees, puking their guts out, the soldiers were easy prey for German machine guns when the landing ramps dropped. Others tried to escape the lethal hail of lead by jumping over the sides of the landing craft, only to drown when their 100-pound loads of equipment dragged them to the bottom in 10 feet of water.
(The men who somehow managed to shed their packs and flak jackets in the water stood a much better chance of making it to the beach. In one of several fascinating forensic tests staged for "Surviving D-Day," even bullets traveling several thousand feet a second slow to a halt after traveling through less than a yard of water.)
The heavy shipboard meal, a well-intentioned gesture that turned into a murderous screw-up, was the rule rather than the exception at D-Day. The orderly way in which battles unfold in war movies has so warped our perception that when we're confronted with the chaos of real-life combat - the friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, for example - we suspect conspiracy. "Surviving D-Day" demonstrates that the expression "fog of war" is not merely some butt-covering euphemism but a palpable reality.
The mortar-fired grappling hooks that Army Rangers tried to use to storm a Normandy cliff mostly didn't work because they'd only been tested with dry ropes, not heavy ones soaked in seawater that slopped over the sides of the landing craft. Parachutes turned into burial shrouds for soldiers unexpectedly dropped into water because their buckles were not designed for quick release. The 29 amphibious tanks that were to lead the Army's charge up the beach against heavily fortified German pillboxes never arrived; 27 sank in the unexpectedly choppy sea.
What ultimately worked on Omaha Beach were the men. Their courage in the face of indescribable horror is practically beyond human conception, perhaps even their own. But when Norman Cota, a tubby, cigar-chewing general who at 51 could have been the grandfather of some of his men, shouted to them, "Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches! Let us go inland and be killed!" they followed him up the beach into the withering German fire.
Almost seven decades later, most of those who lived through the attack are no longer with us. And "Surviving D-Day" is part of a goodbye that hasn't been near long enough.
9-11 p.m. EDT Saturday
Discovery Channel.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Good Day- No, a Great Day!

Somebody once said, bad things happen in Threes. Yesterday was the exact opposite. It started out very good, went to great, and became fantastic. Both JoAnne and I had a shoot at the Paul Taylor Dance Company with two world class modern dancers. The shoot was primarily JoAnne's but I tagged along to help with logistics, security, and shot a short video of her technique. The dancers Cisco Graciano and Michelle Fleet were two wonderfully easy going and talented people.The space was awesome. It doesn't get better then that. At the end of the shoot, we followed up with a short but great meeting with our publisher Paul Laddin. Our dear friend Monica Cipnic was kind enough to invite us to the Grand Opening Party at Adorama Professional. I've been to a lot of parties and this one was over the top. The inspiration and execution fell on the shoulders of Anne Cahill and suffice to say, she did a magnificent job and a good time was had by all. Last but not least, I had an opportunity to catch up with some old friends and made some new ones. It was great to see Bill Eppridge along with his wife Adrienne, there is no doubt Bill is definitively one of the finest photographers in our day and also happens to be a world class gentlemen. As I mentioned to Anne, they don't make them like this anymore. After all these years, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mendlowitz.  There's an old Italian word to describe him - Mensch.