Steve Schapiro wants to photograph President
Marlon Brando? Yes, on the set of "The Godfather."
Robert Kennedy? Many times.
Andy Warhol? In the raucous Factory days (and nights).
This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday
Chevy Chase? Schapiro, 78, and his wife are the godparents of the actor's daughter.
David Bowie? The rock star used a Schapiro photo for his latest album cover.
The list goes on, a gathering so eclectic as to be almost surreal:
Those are just some of the people in Schapiro's latest book, "Steve Schapiro: Then and Now," published in November. But not all of the photos in it are of the celebrated; most have been published before. Some of the most captivating are of children, whether in India in 2005 or on
For five decades, Schapiro, a globe-trotter of the most inexhaustible sort, lived for a quarter of a century in Los Angeles before moving to Chicago six years ago.
"My wife, Maura, is from Chicago and has 33 first cousins, and they all live here," he says. "This is a great city, a much easier place to live than New York or Los Angeles."
There are a number of Chicago photos in "Then and Now," including a haunting shot of some former
Schapiro was born and raised in
He kept at it during his teenage years, discovering Henri Cartier-Bresson and studying with W. Eugene Smith, a legendarily uncompromising photojournalist. He attended Amherst College and graduated from Bard College before embarking on a freelance career in the 1960s.
Shooting for LIFE, Time, Look, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and other publications during the ensuing decades — what he calls "the golden age of photojournalism" — he captured migrant workers in Arkansas and Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 march in Selma. He was there in 1967 as the "Summer of Love" colorfully overwhelmed the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco.
"There was such an emotional flow to these events that it gave me the chance to do pictures that captured the spirit of an event or a person," Schapiro says. "Emotions are what really interests me."
If you have been a reader of magazines, you have seen dozens, if not hundreds of Schapiro's photos over the years. His shot of
That's because in conversation he is not at all self-promoting. Diminutive and soft-spoken, he has a quick smile, sparkling eyes and a lot of energy, but it is easy to imagine how inconspicuously he was able to fit onto movie sets or into protest marches.
He has had acclaim, with many gallery exhibitions here and abroad, and his work is in the collections of the Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery and other prestigious places.
"Then and Now" is his fifth book, following "American Edge" (2000), "Schapiro's Heroes" (2007), "The Godfather Family Album" (2008) and Taxi Driver" (2010).
"In all of my books, I want to have something interesting on every page," he says.
"All of us are unique, and we work with that," he says. "I think we are on the way to a day when cameras as we have known them will be obsolete. We will be using just cell phones to take photos as the technology advances and the quality gets better. But I will ever believe that it is the photographer who counts, not the camera."
He is busy in his lakefront apartment putting together, with his wife and son, what he calls "a book about bliss. It's really about the hippie movement today, a movement not so much into drugs as years ago, but people into meditation, natural foods, music festivals. I have shot more than 30,000 images over the last two years, and we spent the holidays editing that pile down."
Flipping through "Then and Now," he stops randomly on a page and then happily tells stories about the photo on it. There is none more intriguing than the one about pages 60-61. It shows a 21-year-old
"That was pretty amazing," he says. "After all these years."
After all these years, then, what was Brando like?
"Brando was sweet and tender," he says.
Who was the most unpleasant?
"Oh, I could never tell you that," he says. "Many things stay between me and the people I photograph."
We know you are very busy, Mr. President, but Steve Schapiro will be expecting your call.
Rick Kogan is a Tribune senior writer and columnist.
"Steve Schapiro: Then and Now"