It gives me great pleasure to introduce
Sam Finkelstein to you this month. Some people got the
opportunity to discuss his wonderful black and white photography
with him at our San Marco Art Show in January. On the
whole, though, very few people in our community know Sam.
What has kept him apart, is the difficulty he has in communicating.
Because of his love of people, for him, this is the most
devastating effect of the Parkinsons Disease with
which he was diagnosed 8 1/2 years ago.
Sams love of people can be seen as one looks through
some of his collection of several hundred 8 X 10 black
and white photos, all printed by him in his basement
darkroom (an enlarger on the laundry table) in his and
Sheilas home of 37 years in Central New Jersey.
During our interview Sam stated that he first started
taking pictures when he was 9 years old, adopting the
family camera, a Brownie Reflex. He recounted some of
the incidents and things that he photographed that ultimately
led to his first picture being published in a local
newspaper when he was 11 years old.
He smiled as he said that whenever he heard sirens,
he would hop on his bike to check out what was going
on, often calling the newspaper to report. As we talked
even further, he said the most dramatic of his early
picture-taking career was seeing, then photographing,
the Hindenburg dirigible the day before it caught fire
and was destroyed.
At the age of 17, Sam started doing darkroom work, developing
the negatives and printing his own pictures . He said
that he most enjoyed finding models and scenery and
blending the two into fine prints. He went on to Philadelphia
Textile Institute where he was quite involved in many
groups, including the newspaper and yearbook. Between
his junior and senior years, Sam toured approximately
25 states as he went cross country with two friends.
He likes recounting that he wore 3 cameras around his
neck on that trip which resulted in an exhibit at PTI
later in the year.
Shortly after college Sam was drafted into the Army
where he ultimately had the good fortune to be stationed
in an Army hospital in Heidelberg Germany in 1954. The
good fortune was that the hospital had quite a fine
darkroom supervised by a topnotch European photographer,
from whom Sam said he learned everything that has made
his own print work so special.
Spending time in the darkroom actually became one of
his biggest passions. He often worked in it from 7 PM
to 3 AM to get the exact tones and shadows for which
he strove in producing a perfect print,
carefully cropped to best frame the subject matter.
His ultimate pride came in seeing the finished product.
Europe provided quite an adventure for Sam, his roving
eye and his camera. Models were abundant and the stirring
quality of what he was able to capture in people in
special moments is extraordinary. Candid pictures were
his strong point. Toward the end of his Army career
he had a one-man photo exhibit in Heidelberg featuring
70 photos from 12 countries.
Though photography remained one of his passions, when
Sam was discharged from the Army, he moved to NY to
work in his chosen field of textiles. Going back to
Philadelphia for blind dates he and Sheila met 45 years
ago. They were married within 4 1/2 months. Sams
camera became quite active as his love for her was expressed
in so many of the portraits he took. Naturally the coming
of their 2 sons, that love and all the resultant activities
and trips made for quite a collection of photos which
ultimately made their way into the over 40 albums which
Sam put together. His wonderful sense of humor often
came out in those albums, as he created captions and
stories for the photos. One photo of his two sons with
a Wright Brothers model airplane is still being bought,
on occasion, from a photo stock house for use by companies
In addition to photography and family, Sams activities
included community and synagogue leadership roles, Scouts,
coin collecting from boyhood through adult years and
baseball card collecting with his sons. Thank you, Sam,
for being so open with us.
You can see a small sampling of Sams black and
white photography on the web at www.naturesplayground.com
by clicking on the B_W link in the menu. Sam also states
that you are also certainly welcome to call him to come
see his work firsthand.
Sheila Finkelstein, Artist/Roving Reporter
Authors Note - Writing this article was an opportunity
for me to honor and share Sam and actually learn some
things I never knew. In PICTURE
TO PONDER, a daily e-mail photo newsletter that
I publish, I often leave readers with a thought or two
to ponder. In doing the same here, What if you
were sit down with your spouse, your significant other,
a family member, or even yourself to look at your past
to explore your passions past and present, what might
(This article was written for the ART MATTERS column
in the June 2005 edition of SAN MARCO MATTERS.)
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