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Don’t Be So Darn Serious

I was such a rube when I came to New York that it really became a classic case of the lord looking after a fool. I knew so little, I didn’t know that young photographers, fresh out of school with no experience, weren’t really supposed to call the photo editor of People magazine.

John Dominis, legendary Life shooter, was the editor at the time. I was told that Mr. Dominis didn’t “see” anyone. I could drop off my book.

Okay, but I told them I needed it back later that day ‘cause I had other appointments. The term “cheeky little bastard” comes to mind.

I called later and was asked to come right over. “Mr. Dominis would like to see you.” I don’t recall breathing as I raced across town. I arrived in his office a sweaty mess.

“You’re pretty serious about your work, aren’t you?” he asked. I said, “Yes, absolutely, sir.” He threw me a stack of contact sheets. “Take a look and tell me what you see there.”

I spent a couple of minutes, and I told him, honestly, I didn’t see much. He slapped his hand on the desk. “I gotta wade my way through this crap every day! And some of my friends are shooting it!”

He then told me to get out of New York. “Nobody’s serious about their work here anymore,” he said.

He walked over to a picture on his wall of a lady, shot for the magazine, who made crazy cake decorations for a living. Predictably, her face was made up like a cake, frosting and all.

He turned to me. “See this picture? I use the photographer who shot this picture a lot, because she can get people to do stuff like this. And she’s nowhere near as good as you are right now! But I use her and I’m not going to use you. ‘Cause I don’t think you can get people to do this! You’re too serious about your work. You gotta get outta New York.”

Wait! I can be funny! Man walks into a bar....

I remember just wandering the streets for awhile.

  • “You’re too serious about your work. You gotta get outta New York.”
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