Robert Zuckerman is an extraordinary photographer whose work you know even if you never heard his name. You know his work because he is a still photographer for Hollywood movies and his shots have illustrated film reviews and articles and have been used as movie posters so often, if you've seen an ad for a movie in a magazine or newspaper or a poster as you pass a movie theater or enter one, you've seen his work.
But he should be a household name, at least in the households of artists, as well as spiritual seekers and any goodhearted person, because of a series of photo essays that has been ongoing now for many many years and a small portion of which can be found in his book KINDSIGHT, which is the name he came up with to describe what he does.
What he does is engage anyone he comes in contact with in a way that is not only all embracing and accepting but usually gets that person to reveal themselves in such a deep and significant way that normally in life would either never be discovered by a stranger, or if it was would take a skilled novelist to articulate. But Robert does it in one photograph and one paragraph, and does it so well, anyone who encounters his work is moved.
Tonight my two sons and I attended a reception for the latest exhibit of some of these works at the art gallery in the 92nd Street Y in NYC where Robert and his work was lauded by several speakers, but more importantly where the work stood for itself, and so powerfully that I told my older son when he arrived after my youngest and I had already been there a while, that after picking only three images to look more closely at and read the paragraphs with them my eyes were tearing up so much I had to stop. I said this just as my oldest finished reading one of the works and turned to me with his eyes wet saying, it only took one for him.
There was the usual mix of humanity at the reception, including the famous and the unknown, the old and young, the light skinned and dark skinned and everything in between, the conventionally beautiful and the unconventionally beautiful, the holy and the profane, from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life. I didn't recognize Debra Winger until Robert was just about to introduce her to me and then remembered we'd met many years ago, though I'm sure she didn't remember me, but how could I forget her?—one of the—I want to say toughest but that's not the right word, maybe most straight forward is close, but a total delight the first time I met her back in my Hollywood days and again tonight, and she flattered my sixteen-year-old as he towered over all of us by guessing he was twenty-five.
But mostly it was just great to see Robert again. Robert is a very tall man who always came across as a gentle giant. I would often describe him to friends as having the kind of presence people who are practicing Buddhists wish they could achieve but seemed to come naturally to him. But several years ago he developed a limp and eventually had to use a cane for what was an undiagnosed illness. They finally figured out what it was, a degenerative disease that is very rare and the name of which I am at a loss to remember, but you can find out at his web site, and which has now put him in a wheelchair.
Which has not stopped him a bit, neither from doing his professional photography jobs nor from continuing his art with more KINDSIGHT works. He has been an example to me since I first met him over two decades ago when he came to take some photos of me for a magazine article and as he always does, with everyone he encounters, became an instant friend—as well as someone who I aspired to be as kind and gentle and helpful as. His spirit is undaunted and inspiring, as always.
If you're anywhere near NYC in the next few weeks, go see this exhibit.