Schrier and Gee to exhibit photos at County College of Morris
Husband and wife team see life through different lenses.
County College of Morris will host a photography exhibit by Jack Schrier and his wife Elizabeth Gee from Sept. 3 to Oct. 23 in the Art Gallery of the Masten Library. A reception will be held to meet the photographers from 5 to 7 p.m., Sept. 18. Although married for 35 years, Schrier, who is also a Morris County Freeholder, and Gee say their exhibit demonstrates that they see life through different lenses.
Jack Schrier has been a photographer since he was 10 years old, using “box” and “bellows” cameras and developing and printing his own pictures in a make-shift basement darkroom. In the 1960s he showed his work to famed fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who suggested that Jack should take some lessons from a professional. So when an opportunity arose to study photojournalism on a scholarship from ASMP, the American Society of Magazine Photographers, he jumped at the chance. Among his tutors at that time were the best of the best, such as Bruce Davidson, Lisette Model, Nancy Fleischer, Diane Arbus and Ben Fernandez.
Schrier’s photographs have been published in New York Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, the Saturday Evening Post magazine, and numerous other periodicals. Schrier also worked in the classic Time-Life photography series, including the volumes “Photographing Children” and “The Art of Photography.” His subjects were captured on film just as he found them, on the Bowery and gritty side streets of Manhattan, the suburbs of New Jersey, the hills of West Virginia, even at Churchill Downs (photographing the Kentucky Derby for CBS), and in Yankee Stadium -- wherever his ‘54 VW Beetle took him.
In 1968, on assignment for the Post, he photographed a story on returning Viet Nam war veterans (while the war was still on) and then asked if he could move in with a large family in north Philadelphia. His photo-chronicling of daily life there produced more than just a series of provocative pictures, it left him with a new sensitivity and more compassionate insight to a world far different from the one he himself had lived.
His film medium was black-and-white, which he liked for its un-distracting, stark realism. Although he used Leicas, Hasselblads and a Rolleiflex at times, his preferred cameras were Pentax Spotmatics. He found them compact, easy to manipulate, and almost infinitely flexible for any circumstance. He still uses them and has accumulated an extraordinarily wide range of Pentax lenses from 7mm fisheye to 500mm telephoto.
Elizabeth Gee arrived in the United States from England, having trained as an Executive Secretary and with no notion of becoming a photographer. However, her position as assistant to a Manhattan ad agency’s creative director did introduce her to an exciting side of that field, and she met many talented artists, photographers and actors. (Once, walking into the agency waiting room, Mel Brooks spotted her and memorably exclaimed, “I love your face!!”)
While preparing for a visit back home to the UK in 1968, her Manhattan apartment was burgled and her camera, a gift from her father, was among the stolen items. A young copywriter at the ad agency, Jack Schrier, offered her the use of his Pentax SLR for the trip. He also gave her a “crash course” in its use and an 85mm lens. She returned to the States with astonishingly evocative and perceptive portraits of her family. Clearly, she had a gift for putting her subjects in the right mood, and for choosing the right moment to press the shutter.
One of her acquaintances from the ad agency offered her an assignment on behalf of Hallmark Cards, which was then just entering the book-publishing field. She photographed that job successfully and went on to shoot several more books as well as greeting card pictures for Hallmark. But it was her special way with personal portraits that brought her the most satisfaction, and the best assignments. She was on hand when Jimmy Carter won the New Hampshire Primary that firmly launched him on his road to the Presidency; her portrait of him on that day put her into consideration as official White House Photographer.
Elizabeth was often the photographer of choice for Family Weekly, the Sunday Supplement magazine, for whom she photographed a bevy of celebrities and literary figures over the years, including William Saroyan, Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Alan Funt (“Candid Camera”), Erica Jong, John D. Rockefeller Jr., “Happy” Rockefeller (wife of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller), newsman Chet Huntley, Margaret Truman, and many, many others. She also was in demand for portraits of business leaders for their use in annual reports and publicity.
Like her husband, she used Pentaxes for film but has now adopted Nikons in the digital age. Unlike her husband, Elizabeth prefers to shoot colorful images, in colorful splendor, and always with her certain style, that lifts them above the ordinary.