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Phil Stern Passes On


I saw Phil at his 95th birthday party a few months ago.  I didn’t go over right away, I was doing a story for L’oeil and I wanted to get some pictures first.  When I finally came closer he saw me and nodded so I squatted down next to his wheelchair and we talked for a few minutes about this and that.  When I was getting ready to leave I said “I’ll come by in a few weeks when all the excitement dies down” and he said “I’d like that”.  I called a few weeks ago to see if it might be a good time and they told me he was in the hospital.  I asked “Is it serious” and was told it was just for tests.  But today the news came of his passing and I am saddened by his loss.  He was a special person, a man of conviction and a great photographer.

Many years ago I had occasion to hire Phil for a job.  He arrived with a number of cameras as he always did and for some forgotten reason he gave me one to use.  I shot a roll and gave it back to him at the end of the day.  A few weeks later he brought me a contact sheet and two prints.  They were pictures I had made of him working and sitting in the office eating lunch.  They were inscribed in his strong clear hand with gag lines, something he often did in those days.  The first was one of Phil with James Dean looking over his shoulder, the second of Phil battling with a recalcitrant Nikon.  He had transformed them with a few choice words.  I treasure them.

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