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A Photographer’s Muse – Hugh Brodie (1933-2017)

Author: Collaborator - Printique by Adorama


Memoir of a Great Jazzman

by Joe DiMaggio

Copyright Joe DiMaggio

Maybe once in a lifetime, you have a day that radically changes everything.  For me, that one day happened at a cocktail party. There were a hundred people milling about, but I saw only one person. It was as if he was illuminated from the inside out. He appeared as a beautiful bronze statue with white hair. I went up and introduced myself. Shortly afterward, I mentioned that I’d love to photograph him in my studio.
That was a day that changed my life.
Hugh Brodie was living in Monticello, upstate New York, and a young aspiring photographer by the name of Marisa Sheinfeld, my assistant at the time, volunteered to drive Brodie to my photography studio.
I set up the studio on what I call black, on black, on black, which is a black background with two electronic Flashes with black grids, a black Gobo and one small silver reflector. I used black and white film, and the results were amazing.
An art director looked at the portrait and told me that it was one of the greatest portraits he’d ever seen, and I simply said to him that I had very little to do with this particular portrait—it was all Brodie.

Copyright Joe DiMaggio


Canon Camera EOS 1, Ilford HP5 Lens 85mm f/1.2, shutter speed 1/125th of a second at f/5.6 film processed at ISO 200.

The photo went on to be used for several international ads and won quite a few art director awards.
It wasn’t long after listening to Brodie’s spiritual take on things that I knew that it was time to change my ways. At this point in our relationship, I had started to film Brodie because everything he was telling me about life became extremely relevant to me. That, combined with his talent and power, made him a force to be dealt with. When I looked into Brodie’s eyes and listened to his soft-spoken words, I knew that he was the real deal.
I forgot to mention that Brodie’s cousin was Ella Fitzgerald, and for more than seven decades he had played with legendary vocalist and guitarist George Benson, jazz trumpeter Cal Massey, jazz double bassist Jimmy Garrison and jazz tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet. And he was friends with Miles Davis.

Copyright Joe DiMaggio

When I think about what I actually gave Brodie, I realize that I gave him very little, other than my friendship and love. He gave me so much more. For instance, Brodie used to tell me that most people don’t understand that all the great things in life are free. Things like a pat on the back or a kind word—they’re free.
Brodie believed in spreading the truth absolutely and was totally at one with everything on the planet. When his time came to move on, it was on his own terms. His decision to leave this life was done with love, affection, kindness and with his intelligence intact. Hugh Brodie was one hell of a beautiful human being, and one day I hope to meet up with him again.

Copyright Joe DiMaggio

Brodie is only one of the many muses I had throughout my career. I’ve written a book called FILL THE FRAME (now available on Amazon) that goes into detail about the many people I have photographed – celebrities, sports figures as well as so many others and my experiences working with them, and the stories behind the photographs.

Joe DiMaggio prints his work through Printique and started working as a photographer in the 1960’s. He’s worked for publications such as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, TIME MAGAZINE, HBO, rapidly followed by a brilliant career in Corporate and Advertising.