‘Inspired by Eddie Adams’ celebrates acclaimed photographer’s life, work
“If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart,” the late Eddie Adams once observed, “that’s a good picture.”
Almost a decade and a half after the internationally acclaimed photographer’s death in 2004, the impact of the New Kensington native’s lifetime of “good pictures,” including a Pulitzer Prize winner, continues to be celebrated, studied and used as a guidepost toward improvement and excellence by amateur and professional photographers.
Adams photographed many of the defining cultural and historic figures and moments of his lifetime. The former Marine Corps combat photographer in Korea in the early 1950s would have been 84 on June 12. His Pulitzer came for one of the iconic photos of the Vietnam War, the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner.
The New Kensington Camera Club once again shines the spotlight on their native son with the sixth annual Eddie Adams Day weekend events, which includes the 7 p.m. opening of the “Inspired by Eddie Adams” photography exhibit on June 16 at the New Kensington Arts Center, 950 Fifth Ave. The exhibit continues through July 1.
Awards for best work in the exhibit will be announced at the Eddie Adams Day banquet June 17 at the Quality Inn, New Kensington. Murrysville native Martha Rial, who is judging the photo exhibit and has a Pulitzer of her own for photos of survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, is the keynote speaker.
“I love how Eddie Adams Day not only honors Eddie’s contributions to photojournalism, but how it also encourages professional and amateur photographers across our region to work hard and use your craft to make a difference in our communities and beyond,” she says.
Rial says that because Adams’ work was so intimate and honest, it remains relevant today and still has the power to motivate young photographers.
Adams photographed 13 wars, a pope, seven presidents, 65 heads of state, including Fidel Castro, and stars ranging from Bette Davis and Clint Eastwood to Big Bird and Mickey Mouse. His photographs appeared in Time, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Parade, among other leading publications.
His daring photos afloat with the Vietnamese Boat People, trying to escape Communist rule, are credited in many circles with helping pave the way for some 200,000 Vietnamese immigrants to be admitted to the United States.
It is important to recognize Adams every year, believes Don Henderson, a founder of the camera club.
Eddie Adams in Vietnam.
“Eddie was a game changer and he continues to be relevant today. He left us with a huge body of work to study and he left us the thousands of people whose lives he changed with his photos,” he says. “We can’t all go out and be Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers and take photos in a war zone, but we are all capable of taking strong portraits and important photos: real photos of real people in real situations, photos of life that celebrate the aspect of Eddie’s career where I think he did his strongest work, capturing life around him.”
Jaime Bird of Plum, who has three shots of life on the streets in the exhibit, says, “There is so much to admire in Adams’ body of work that speaks to every person and the compassion we feel for others.”
Arnold resident Jim Lloyd’s story of his mother-in-law Loretta Carroll’s last year in her home before she moved to an assisted living facility won first place in last year’s contest. This year he has entered people from a motorcycle rally in Ohio.
“The emotion in Eddie’s photos is amazing and an inspiration to all photographers,” he says.
Lisa Marie Cirincione, a New Kensington native who now travels the world for NBC Sports, says she always tries for “the decisive moment” with her photography. “I am also inspired by the fact that someone from my small hometown made an incredible impact on photography and history,” says Cirincione, an award-winner last year.
Marie Hilty of West Leechburg is proud that Adams once photographed her grandfather, Vincent Cascone, at work in the late 1950s or early ’60s. “Eddie had the ability to pull a person’s personality and creativity into a photograph. My grandpap looked comfortable and in his element,” she says.
Club member Wendy Marchese of Harmar says Adams motivates her to challenge herself. “I like his work because it showed the truth of what was going on in a photo,” she says.
“I think his work is about humanity. He exposed the good and the bad,” says Dorothy Kress of Lower Burrell, whose exhibit photo was shot at Shanksville at the Flight 93 memorial.
Bill Hall of Lower Burrell, president of the New Kensington Arts Center and one of the founders of the camera club, acknowledges that Eddie Adams Day has struck a chord with people.
“It’s purely a positive message,” he says. “Not only because many people still remember Eddie Adams, but because he enriched the lives of people around the world with his skills and insight.”
Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.