Classic images of Muhammad Ali, including shots of the young boxer then known as Cassius Clay, are on display outside Philadelphia at the Michner Art Museum in Doylestown, through May 15.
Based on an exhibit that was first displayed at Hofstra, the photos of Muhammad Ali include work by the best photographers of the era. From the Bucks Local News report on exhibts of Elvis and Ali:
Ali’s story is one of an American hero who has come full circle in the hearts and minds of people throughout the world, and features more than 50 photographs by such distinguished photographers as Annie Leibovitz, Gordon Parks and Art Shay that capture Ali’s positive public image. Although his braggadocio and vanity flouted conventional ideas about sportsmanship, the overall sense was that Ali was a “good kid” who valued family and community and was using boxing to earn a share of the American dream.
One was called "The King," the other "The Greatest." Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali are the very essence of 20th century American icons — revered, worshiped, beloved, and sometimes, in the case of Ali, even hated. They shared fame, notoriety, and headlines as their lives unfolded in separate ways, each triumphant and each ultimately tragic.
The Philadelphia Inquirer published an essay on both exhibits by the music critic Dan DeLuca, who singled out one Shay image: "Art Shay's picture of a brash, on-the-rise Cassius Clay in a locker room in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., in 1964 (with his mother, Odessa, close by)."
Art Shay's photo talent has inspired generations of photographers now shooting all over the world. Three Shay children who made photography their profession are among the top of this group. Steve Shay, now working in Seattle, has a gallery opening tonight.
Steve Shay has been invited to show his photographs by Alki Arts Gallery owners Diane Venti and husband Tom Wyrick. The event is this Friday night, March 25, 7pm-10pm. Alki Arts Gallery is at next to Cactus Restaurant, at 2820 Alki Ave SW. (206) 432-9936 *Wine and cheese and dessert reception. *Music by Brooke Trisler. He's awesome!
Steve paid tribute to Art Shay in an essay about Elizabeth Taylor that ran in the West Seattle Herald with this Art Shay photo:
Taylor, who died on Wednesday at age 79, was at the Ambassador East hotel in Chicago in the 1960 when Art Shay captured her beauty and glamour. A few weeks later, Art Shay was on a flight about to leave Los Angeles for Chicago. Steve picks up the story of the actress and the photographer:
... they open a door and Elizabeth Taylor in a fur coat comes on and the only seat left in the plane was next to me. I had my camera case with me, the one she had signed a few weeks earlier at the event in Chicago. She sat next to me, and recognizing me said, "Art, let's not talk. Let's sleep all the way to Chicago." My father claims he honored her request. That to me is the amazing part of this story, my dad not saying a word for over three hours.
The blizzard of 2011 brings to mind other great snows and plunging temperatures of years gone by. Remember 1977? It was a little chilly then, too. Art Shay captured the feeling in this Time cover shot. Click for more on Art Shay's work for Time.
Art Shay was there when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Chicago in 1966, bringing his crusade for racial justice to a northern city where segregation in housing, education and employment mirrored conditions in the South.
Art Shay was the photographer who captured an image for Life magazine of a young black couple moving into an otherwise all-white Chicago neighborhood. Chicagoist reprinted the image and other Shay images of the King era in a King Day remembrance: From the Vault of Art Shay: Remembering Dr. King.
Art Shay was also there at King's funeral. Assigned to Memphis immediately after the assassination, Shay wrote recently (Remembering Dr. King's Death) about being with Gary Wills. Shay and Wills
went to the funeral home preparing King's body for burial. It was eerie, for all the radio stations were playing his speeches endlessly, listening to his voice while we could hear the sounds of the funeral face-restorers frantically working to make his half-shot-away face look presentable for his open casket showing. The next day I rode the back of the big open truck as Mrs. King and her family walked in the first row of a hundred-wide, two-hundred-deep funeral procession.
It was a moment from King's life, from his journey to Chicago, that carried the deepest reverberations for one family. A Shay photograph from that time was on display in a window of the Thomas Masters Gallery. It showed King and nearby a police officer named Barry Batson.
Batson's wife, Helen, remembers that time: "The word in the streets was that somebody would try to kill Dr. King in Chicago. My husband said 'It's not going to happen on my watch.' "
King then was 37 years old, determined that his dedication to civil rights, which had already earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, could expand from its southern base to find even more success in cities in the north.
Art Shay, a prolific photographer for Time and Life magazine, captured an image of King at a July rally in Soldier Field in Chicago. To King's right is a tall, thin officer, in fedora and suit: Barry Batson.
As recalled in Preacher, Photographer, Policeman, by chance Batson's daughter in law saw that photo in the gallery window, decades after the rally. That moment brought the Batson family together to honor the memory of the civil rights leader and the memory of that brave officer who made sure that, on his watch, Dr. King would remain safe.
Museums, collectors and galleries treasure prints from Art Shay's seven decades of making memorable images. Joan Brunwasser of OpEd News caught up with the peripatetic photographer recently and asked how it all started. Here's is Shay's response, from Art Shay: That Was Then, Part One:
In 1939, the year I was 17, I noticed that the windows of shops on downtown 57th Street were lit by then-new neon lamps. I lugged my $5 tripod downtown at night and began making Graflex time exposures of displays. My first and best sale was to the Hammond Organ Company. They bought five at $5 each and began sending me to churches, where I photographed Hammond organs.
From those church visits, it was a short step to navigating B-24 over Europe in World War II and then to Life magazine.
After the war and stops in Washington and San Francisco, Shay and his family settled in this house in the Chicago suburbs (backyard Hula Hoop photo by Art Shay). Top names, big events and high-profile photo assignments dominated his schedule. A driving curiosity and a powerful sense of the moment dominated his work. Brunwasser, in Art Shay: That Was Then, Part Two, asked Shay to describe how he worked. Shay's response:
My eye was ever the hunter in employ of my mission. Good example: my early Time picture of Sen. McCarthy at the Stockyards Inn. I "covered" his speech - but also got a great image of him juxtaposed with a circular ceiling lamp - giving him an unearned halo, underlying how little fit he was to wear one. Most of my pictures were taken in off moments of great event assignments.
Another example was published this week by Shay on the Chicagoist. It was 1960 and Elizabeth Taylor was in Chicago to promote a movie. In this installment of From the Vault of Art Shay, the photographer describes Taylor as "otherworldly gorgeous in her purple-eyed, curvaceous prime" and goes on to describe the time a few weeks later they shared a TWA flight and Taylor fell asleep on his shoulder.
Shay is hard at work on his next Chicagoist column. For all the time spent looking back, it's always been the next project that has attracted his focus and enthusiasm.
Raju Peddada has produced an online photo essay on Art Shay's work using a new digital tool called Issuu. Click on The Curative Literature of Art Shay and you will find the opening page. Once there, if you allow your cursor to hover over the image of the boxer then known as Cassius Clay, a new phrase reveals itself: "Click to read in fullscreen."
Readers who click on that invitation will be transported to a literary and visual feast.
Peddada refers to Shay's "gritty realism" and his sardonic yet self-effacing personality. He compares this prolific Chicago photographer to Mark Twain and Pablo Picasso. There are more than hints of the works of Dostoevsky and Steinbeck, according to Peddada's analysis.
The images, in color and black and white, span the many decades of Shay's work. Quotations of Shay fans fill out the booklet and convey a depth of admiration earned frame by frame, day by day in a lifetime of accomplishment.
Art Shay continues to produce compelling photos from his vault of images created over more than six decades of work as a professional photographer. This view of the Chicago skyline shot from a small Cessna some 30 years ago is one of a group of photographs published this week by the Chicagoist.
With the first set of images, posted Dec. 22, Shay added a note about the decisions a photographer makes that make a work of art:
Let immodest me make it a personal boast : a photographer who's published 30,000 pictures and more than 1000 covers on national magazines and more than 50 of my own books — is constantly, instantly, making aesthetic decisions. The same kind you make every time you look through your digital finder. 'Do I shoot now, NOW? Nnnnow? No... Now! Got it!'
The initial set of nine images include some that have been on display at the Thomas Masters Gallery. A Santa Claus, the pattern of lights created by airplanes over O'Hare Airport, bears at Lincoln Park zoo make up some of the subjects of this master photographer.
The Chicagoist readers have added their own comments, including calling Shay "quite heroic" and describing a book by Shay as "one of my favorite photobooks of all." The photos are bringing out many Shay fans on Twitter, too: click for the Shay tweets.
AmeriCollector is up with a new review of the Art Shay exhibit at the Thomas Masters Gallery and a Q and A with Shay: Chicago and beyond.
The author is the prolific David Chesanow, who has interviewed Shay for AmeriCollector and written about the exhibit for The Forward.
Chesanow asks Shay about his favorite photographs, other photographers, favorite subjects and about collecting:
AC: If someone wanted to collect photographic prints, what advice would you give? Art: My advice to collectors: Buy the prints that you enjoy looking at more than cursorily on a quick round of a gallery. I love one collector who blames me for sending her back four times to see what I had in mind in a single picture … To me the picture’s the thing. I feel new collectors should just buy pictures they like.