When I discovered that many of my photographs were filed as historical, I realized I had been around a long time. I joined the Geographic staff in 1964 and stayed for thirty years, during a time when circulation increased from three to over 10 million. Some called it the “Golden Years,” but I like to think of them as “Platinum — we had a no-hold policy to get the best picture possible; Time or expenses were never an issue. We had access to any equipment needed and, if it didn’t exist, it was made in the Geographic’s state-of-the-art machine shop. We had the finest photographic lab in the world. You might think all this support made my work easier, but it really increased the pressure. There was never an excuse not to get the picture.
Photography was more of a craft back then— manual focus, f-stop, and shutter speed. Film speeds were slow and non-forgiving. Kodachrome with a film speed of 25 was our standard, carefully tested and purchased in “bricks” of thousands. I often waited weeks to get results, which usually consisted of a telegram (hopefully) stating, “Shipment received… exposures look good.”
I like diversity, and my work ranged from anthropology to holography including ten trips to China in the early years, and books on American Mountain People and Gypsies.
I’m still shooting pictures and recently made several personal trips to Hungary and Romania to reunite with Roma (Gypsies) I photographed over a half century earlier. I wanted to find where their lives have taken them, and how they had changed. I felt all my years of taking photographs were validated when one Gypsy wrote to me: “Thank you for bringing to life all the stories I was brought up with”.