Monday, February 8, 2010

Who is Harvey Anyway?

I had never heard of Harvey Lloyd, and when I read his ad in Craig's list, I really wished I was young again and full of passion and enthusiasm for life, so I could apply for that job and have a real life with my hair on fire. So I looked him up. Here's what I found:

Profile: Harvey Lloyd by Steve Anchell
The Samurai Way

“There’s a wonderful passage in the book, “Zen and the Art of Archery,” where the acolyte asks the master, ‘How do I know when to let the arrow go?’ And the master says, ‘It shoots.’ That’s the way it is when it’s right—in a ten thousandth of a second it shoots. But that ten thousandth of a second has to be the right ten thousandth of a second. And the arrow knows.

“I feel that there is a very close relationship between the samurai and the photographer. The samurai’s life is dependent on an instant of action. In A Book of Five Rings, Go Rin No Sho, the legendary 17th century Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi says, that in strategy ‘you must see distant things as if they were close, and take a distant view of close things. Perception is strong and sight weak. You must be able to see out of both sides of your eyes without moving your eyeballs. You must practice these things all the time.’

“ When I read this, I thought this was very interesting. There couldn’t be a better guide to how you have to see as a photographer. When you are out photographing, there are times when you have a split second to see everything: composition, light and shade, hue, chroma, and saturation; dynamics, symmetry and asymmetry—whatever it is you’re trying to do. When the image is processed, you realize you saw everything, your peripheral vision is that fast. Everything you’re doing is that fast, and if you practice that for 40 years, you get to be pretty good at it.”

Harvey’s latest in a long line of photographic books, The Samurai Way: Spiritual Journeys With a Warrior Photographer, published by Ruder Finn Press, should be available by the time you read this. According to Harvey, “The Samurai Way is a book about Zen philosophy, martial arts philosophy, creative strategy and a lot about the art of seeing. It has many of my images, tales of adventure from all the crazy places I’ve been, and the dangerous moments I’ve experienced. It is a worldwide photographic odyssey that contains my metaphysical and spiritual views, my ideas on creativity and aesthetics.

“ One of the principles of the samurai is that in your own mind, you are already dead; there is nothing you have to fear. An artist should feel the same way: You are not attempting to be alive in any state other than your art. You are not afraid to die as far as the recognition of you by the world. What other people think is of no concern. The only thing that matters is the inner aesthetic that drives you on, that makes you feel. This is what I want to do; this is what I believe; this is what I’m going to uncover; this is what I’m going to explore. I don’t care how dangerous it is. I don’t care how enigmatic it is. I’ve got to go beyond what I’ve ever done before, and may have to go beyond what most people see or understand. That is the absolute will to die as I have translated it in my own terms in The Samurai Way.”

Danger lurks everywhere when photographing on location. While hovering low over Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, Harvey looked down at the towering ice pinnacles and black crevasses and shouted to the pilot, “Brent, what happens if we lose power here?” Brent answered, “Not to worry Harvey, we helicopter pilots in Alaska have a saying, ‘Lots of altitude, lots of scream time. Down here, short scream time.’”

Like many great photographers, Harvey began his career as a graphic designer. Graduating from a six-month design course at the Cooper Union Brooklyn adjunct, he was soon operating his own company, Graphic Arts Center. Within two years GAC went to 80 employees. Harvey decided to go it alone; giving his share of the company to his two partners, he began his own promotional agency.

Around this time Harvey met the man that would change his life and his way of viewing the world, Alexei Brodovitch. A Russian √©migr√©, Brodovitch was an extraordinary genius and the art director of Harper’s Bazaar during its golden years. He influenced many of the finest photographers of the 20th century through his workshops. Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Hiro, Pete Turner and many others participated and grew under his tutelage.

Harvey says, “I got to know him, took care of his workshops, spent a lot of time with him, and learned there is no way you are ever going to reach the limits of the excellence that you seek.

“ Brodovitch would never talk about technique, about equipment; the only thing he would talk about was the mind behind the camera. His motto was, ‘Tonnez moi!’ which means ‘Astonish Me!’ And this is what he expected of everyone.”

Harvey began studying graphic design with Brodovitch and soon found himself in love with photography. He made shows using images and music. Brodovitch encouraged him (he always knew what you were best at even before you did). Harvey sold his business and went to London to become a photographer.

“ I took my cameras and portfolio and went to see Camera Press, a photojournalism agency. I saw the head guy and said, ‘I want to be a photographer.’ He looked at my work and said, ‘Young man, go find another profession.’

“ So I went from there to Black Star, and the director liked my work. I began shooting photojournalism in London for the Sunday magazines. I spent about a year there, and then came back to New York because I felt London was too sedate. The only place where ‘can-do’ is the mega-word is America. Anywhere else people think there are things you can’t do, and I never believed that. If there is anything you want to do, you go out and do it—you can do it. So I came back to America and started working.

“ My first client was Opera News. I had the pleasure of photographing the Metropolitan Opera rehearsals. I met the Italian film director, Federico Fellini when I was shooting for The Saturday Evening Post. I asked him, ‘Mr. Fellini, how important is the imagery in your pictures?’ He replied, ‘That’s everything, that’s everything.’”

Harvey had become a full-fledged photojournalist when he realized the big magazines were dead. “You go out and risk your life to cover a big story such as civil rights in the South, and they run two or three pictures, and not the ones you would have picked. So I opened a big production studio. The first place I opened was called Harvey Lloyd Productions, and we did big multi-screen, multimedia shows.

“ The guys and gals working for me were growing grass in the studio until I made them stop. It was those days—Electric Circus, The Grateful Dead—all that kind of music and imagery I was putting into shows for clients—very experimental. We had video installations of all kinds. I was having a ball, but the thing was much too big. At one point I had about 25 people and a huge studio on Fifth Avenue in the days when you could afford one.”

Then Harvey received an offer from the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) to travel to places around the world to produce a slide show with images and sound for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The object was to show how people of the world lived.

“ I knew this was going to cost me the studio. I sensed it because they had very little budget, and I had a big overhead. I thought, either I do this or I keep doing what I’m doing. So I said, to hell with that, I want to see the world.

“ I went out, shot around the world and thought, this is the way to live.”

Another major change in his life occurred when he was called to do an assignment for the Royal Viking Cruise Line. The cruise line had seen some of the aerial photography work Harvey had done for Boeing and Kuwait Airways.

“ I created a campaign for them that became the pattern for the cruise industry, showing cruise ships in fantastic locations rather than showing the ships as hardware. That started me working for all of the major luxury cruise lines.

“ I traveled about a million and a half miles with my companion Shirlee Price, and visited close to 100 countries, or at least 100 ports-of-call, which is the title of the book, Voyages, The Romance of Cruising: The World’s 100 Most Exciting Ports of Call, which was published in 1999.”

In addition to his commercial work, Harvey was pursuing his personal projects because, “The art of photography is the only thing that concerns me.” For the last 20 years he has been photographing Alphabet City on the Lower East Side, Avenues A, B, C and D. “It went from being bombed-out, drug-ridden, crime-ridden—Upper Bronx in the old days is what it looked like—it was dangerous as hell—and now it’s becoming Yuppieville with high rent condos.

“ I covered that whole transition including extraordinary wall graffiti paintings by an artist named Chico, most of them memorials to dead kids or adults who overdosed or got shot. I was photographing those one day when a man walked up to me and said, ‘Hey, whaddaya doin’ here?’ I said, ‘I’m working on a book about Loisaida.’ That’s what they call the area. He said, ‘Oh yeah, last week a guy was shot doing what you’re doing.’”

Harvey’s personal work takes him further than The City, to the Southwest, where he has photographed the landscapes of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah from the air for a book titled, Sacred Lands of the Southwest. The images in Sacred Lands include the ruins of the Anazasi, Canyon de Chelly, Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, and most of the area’s National Parks.

He then did a book, Isles of Eden, on the outer islands of the Bahamas to record and help preserve a way of life that was dying out. The people’s kindness, dignity and folk wisdom enriched his own life. The island kids go off to Nassau and Paradise Island for the work and action.

While photographing at Point Lobos in California, the nature reserve where the Westons, Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Henry Gilpin and other West Coast photographers have photographed, Harvey met Ansel Adams. “I chatted with him a bit, he was in the last few months of his life. I said, ‘Mr. Adams, I’ve long admired your work, I learned black-and-white photography by reading your books.’ I told him I had come to Point Lobos a number of times to walk the rocks and wander in the coves and see the last stands of Monterey Cypress. There was a pause and Mr. Adams looked up from under his big hat and said, ‘How I envy you.’

“ I realized he was no longer able to go out and photograph like he used to, he was too weak, he was dying of emphysema, and to him what I was doing was the life he no longer had. Riches and fame meant nothing to him. The only thing that mattered was that if you can’t work as an artist, you’re dead.

“ Photography has changed enormously in the last 10 or 15 years. I spent many years in the darkroom doing black-and-white developing and printing, later on color printing, but that’s all finished now. My Canon EOS 1DS digital cameras, Photoshop and Epson printers do it. The Epson 2200 prints are like nothing I’ve ever seen from film labs in the old days.

“ I do photography almost every day because if you don’t practice constantly, you’re going to get rusty. The art of photography has been my obsession all of my life. I have tried to do less purely commercial work and tried to make my income purely by what I love, photographing what I love.

“ If I don’t go out at least a couple of days a week, I will not maintain the proficiency I have.

“ Having met Alexei Brodovitch I do not accept anything less than trying to be the best in the world. Certainly, the kind of aerial photography I was doing nobody has ever done better and nobody ever will. But that’s just a departure point. If you don’t think you’re the best, if you don’t aim for the stars, what the hell are you doing it for?

“ My belief is similar to Ansel’s, the affirmation of being alive in this beautiful world and the good fortune of being in one of the few countries where there are enough riches and freedom to enable artists to do whatever they want to do. My attitude is one of endless optimism and exuberance and joy and glory in the world.”

To see more of Harvey Lloyd’s worldwide and personal photography and to read “The Art of Seeing,” visit Harvey
Rangefinder Magazine
December 2004
Steve Anchell

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