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Fred Rosenberg and His Photo Book Legacy

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama



When it comes to your life, how do you want to be remembered? What is your legacy? This Father’s Day we sit down with a remarkable 87-year-old photographer who is not only printing his work, but he’s printing photo books for his children, his grandchildren, and their progeny. Grab a coffee, pull up a seat and spend some time with the charming Fred Rosenberg, he will inspire you to make your  life a printed priority.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born, bred, made my bones, and met my wife in New Jersey.  My high school was built and staffed during the Great Depression, and we had more PhDs on the faculty than any other secondary school in the US, save one (in California).  Although I grew up with Philip Roth and correspond with him to this day, I didn’t take advantage of my opportunity and opted for the US Navy after graduation.   That was the turning point:  Aboard ship, I met and befriended a recent Naval Academy graduate who mentored me, got me to read, exposed me to a world I never visualized; and, armed with an Argus C-3 35mm camera given to me by my dad, I began my love affair with photography.  After my discharge, it was four years in college on a football scholarship, a stint at Rutgers grad school, marriage and an entry level job at an ad agency.  From there I formed my own company – specializing in public relations – married, had two great kids and now, at 87, I’m awaiting open heart surgery in July.

I got my first Leica – A “C” model – in my early twenties, set up a darkroom and started a life in photography that competed with my business activity.  I was driven.  I carried the camera everywhere, photographed everything, even got published and exhibited.  Obviously, I used the cameras (I graduated to an M3 Leica along with old model) in business.  One job stands out:  a client needed aerials, and I volunteered – three of us flew a two-seater bubble helicopter with me hanging out of the portside hatch with a leg dangling in mid air.  I learned the meaning of abject fear that day but got some usable shots.  Over the years I photographed everything from celebs to landscapes, sold work to collectors and designers, had a 52-piece solo show (“TREES”) at the National Arts Club in New York, and my images are in the permanent collections of four museums.  I retired about six years ago, and have been spending much time photographing Florida’s great wildlife.
As to my latest projects, I’ve been using AdoramaPix’s exceptional printing capability to archive – in 11” x 14” formats black and white and color – prints of about 150 of my 50+ plus years of negs and files; and later this summer, I’m planning a photo essay (and book) on the Montauk NY fishing industry.

My most defining moment as a photographer.
This is a tough one.  Although I’ve had the good fortune to photograph presidents, unusual events and the like, I have to classify my ten-day crash course at the Leica School in New York City (back in the early 1960s) as the most defining period of my photographic life.  I was introduced to and learned from icons such as Peter Stackpole at LIFE Magazine and spent productive hands-on time in  LIFE’s darkroom facilities; we had intensive classroom work and field trips and learned the intricacies of every Leica camera. It was a blast … I never was the same photographer after that, and I was given the opportunity to purchase a newM3 with all the bells and whistles (engraved with my initials).  I used that camera steadily until last year when I gifted it to the Boca Raton Museum of Art where is proudly sits in the museum’s photo section.

My ‘legacy’ book
How do people remember someone they care for?  An old photo, a trophy, maybe some military honors?   Well, I look at things in a different light.  I’m no Paul Strand, David Douglas Duncan, Carl Mydans or the like … my work is personal, has been circulated in limited venues and certainly hasn’t achieved the cachet of the “great ones.”  But my photography defines me and my life (other than my personal life, obviously), and vanity notwithstanding, that’s what I want my legacy to be.  So …

I decided to create a photo book for distribution to my children and brother; a book that would incorporate about 90 of the images of ordinary people I’d taken over the decades, one by which I might be remembered.  These were randomly selected and represented a portion of my total collection. The photos portray people at work, people at play, people snoozing … doing what people do.  That’s what the collection is about …just folks.  The images span age, gender, ethnicity; yet despite different faces and diverse interests, all share one thing: they’re ordinary people going about their ordinary lives.
Photographing this wide-ranging mix of subjects in a variety of countries, and blessed with the opportunity to share the images are gifts for which I am eternally grateful.  A half century plus is a long time to be taking pictures, but, as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun; and what a fun ride it’s been.  THAT’s my legacy.

At 87, you’ve lived a colorful life …
The author, Jodi Picault, said, “This is what I like about photographs.  They’re proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect.” Capturing that moment in time – that memory – will never again, EVER, be repeated as the photographer saw and photographed it.    I’m not the kind of person who lives in the past; I have too much going on in the present.  BUT, the things I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, the landscapes and cityscapes I’ve photographed in years gone by will never be the same … events captured, those once living now gone, encroachment of elegant land by development, new towers blocking river views; it’s a different time and a different world.  Frankly, however, I think it’s important to remember how things once were and how those things will never again be the same.  My images are records, archives, of a look at what things were in another time, and I want my kids and grandkids – and their progeny – to visualize the existence of people and places other than those of their own experience.  The images – good and bad – are irreplaceable.
Thank you, Fred, for being such an inspiring photographer. – Libby