tv [untitled] CSPAN June 27, 2009 11:00am-11:30am EDT
i was an nbc reporter between 1976 an 1983, despite looking much too young to have been an nbc news reporter between 19 is it 6 an 1983. -- 1976 an 1983 and it was sometime during that period when, for the first time, the networks learned that the evening newscasts could make money. before that, they were in effe effect, loss leaders, if you know that term from business. william paily didn't care how much money douglas edwards lost, how much money walter concrete lost. it was -- cronkite lost. it was a way to get people in the store, it was a way to give cache to the entire network and this is a network that about to put the "beverly hillbillies" on, so we could have used some cache. one of the worst things that ever happened to the quality of journalism, was that moment or those series of moments when the accountants went down to the editorial offices and said, look, we can tell the "times"
for even more than we're selling it for now. the evening news can make money. from that point on, things started to change, and will never change back again, in terms of that principle. that's up to them. i'm happy to sign. it's up to you to you provide them to sign. thank you for the questions. i appreciated them. [applause] >> eric burns is the former host of "fox news watch," the author of several books, including inif a miss scribblers ."
>> joseph sohm explores themes of dempsey, through his photography collection, "visions of america," it spans 30 years of his career and spans all 50 states. this talk was hosted by the closeup foundation in washington, d.c. >> hi everybody. i got to see when rose asked a question of who's been here before and so i want to say to
those of who are veterans of the closeup program, one welcome back and to shows of you who are new, welcome aboard. i'm sure all of you know or you wouldn't be here that closeup remains the gold standard for civic education programs in washington, d.c., so congratulations for participating. i'm going to introduce you to a gentleman who, like me, has been associated with coastup for many, many years. now, joe sohm has been called many things, some of which are repeatable here, even though we are a camera in the room. but you know, a photographer is the continuing he's referred to the most and that begins to tell the story, but it doesn't really tell the story, and story may be the operative word, because i think if you were trying to really disstill this, joe is a story teller. the pictures are just part of the presentation, but tears a lot more going on than just the pictures and the project you'll hear about today certainly sill straits that, and -- illustrates that and if he's a story teller, his story is the story of america.
joe is in love with america, not just in that sort of thin patriotic type of presentation we see where you put mass produced bumper stickers on your car and make claims. in a very deep way, in a historical way, in way that looks at both the promise of america and the challenges of america, and the accomplishments of america. and eats one of you -- he's one of you. joe began his career as an american history teacher and was in the classroom and he had the itch to have a bigger class, i think, and had this photography hobby, and turned that into a career. and he bought -- joe is a bit of a corn ball and i'm sorry for saying that, and it's true, and with the same sohm, used to call the original business chromosome. it gets worse. the mobile home he traveled around america he called the chromeo home. he didn't know when to stop. he covered every 50 states. every iconic figure of america
and then some has been seen throughs hi viewfinder, initially recorded on film, now the entire sohm library has been reshot in digital panoramaics and without knowing it, you have seen hundreds of joe sohm images. i can say this with confidence, although there are no official statistics to support this, joe is the most accomplished photographer of american photography in america and his catalog is distributed worldwide. his images show up everywhere. joe will be on a plane and see one of his shots and didn't know it was going to appear there because he has agents around the world working for him distributing the shots. it's great. you go home, go to the mailbox and see where the latest check came from. some of the things that have changed technologically have actually changed that business dramatically as well. his images are published over 10,000 times a year. websites, periodicals, tv, film, you name it, some of the places
that are more high profile, you may have seen. some of his images in al gore's film, an inconvenient truth. on the credit card of the u.s. olympic team. open closeup publications. maybe that capitol hill brochure joe introduced you to. it's a match made in heaven based on the things that joe photographs and the things that closeup has interest in. with i interviewed joe to you museum about a year and -- at the museum about a year ago, playing off this notion he iced this term photo historian and i finally had a term after knowing joe all of these years that finally made sense. he never really left of the cast room as suggested. he just changed to his students -- i'm going to hold this book up and it takes two arms because it's a waity tope, here it is, "visions of america, photographing american history." it went from sort of photographing the veneer, the iconic superficial images of
america to thinking about the idea, photographing democracy, and that's what he's attempted to do in this significant project. the book is just part of it. his new format includes a symphony, original music, the prototype premiered in philadelphia a couple of months ago and it's an all-star cast of contributors. the book has 21 essays, it was brought to life if this symphony, peter nea niro and the philadelphia philharmonic performed the music. roger is a legendary jazz poiser, pianist, composer, recently toured with tony bennett, wrote the theme to "all in the family," as far as his imprint on popular culture and roger performed the original score and performed live. the award winning team of alex an marilyn bergman wrote
original songs that were performed by grammy winner peat austin. -- patty austin. so this premiered for a week in philadelphia and now it's being refined to become a national and even international tour. along with the book, it's the latest iteration of joe's classroom work, his telling of the story of america. and so in addition to those projects, he's going to begin a national speaking tour and kicks that off today with you. so without further ado, allow me to introduce writer, producer, story teller, photographer, justin falconer of all trades, joe sohm. joseph? [applause] >> >> good afternoon. it's still morning for me. i just through in from california where i reside and i kind of dodged a few fires on the way and an earthquake that was centered in the town i live, so it's very nice to be here in
washington, d.c. i want to thank john for that very gracious inter ducks. -- introduction. mostly i want to thank him for pronouncing my name right. this is a problem most of my life where my name is is pronounced sohm, and occasionally i'll be asked to speak now at an event and por recently it was at an event called "the food chain" and unfortunately the person that filled out the little name card, like many of you have on your neck, was slightly dyslexic. they had all the write letters, but they weren't in the right sequence beings and i have, being into wide angle views, rather than closeups, i, excuse the pun, i basically didn't look at the tag. well, number one, you should have had always look at your tag, so when i picked it up, again, it was the right letters. it was this. and if you look -- if you look
closely, it's spelled shmo. so you know, very shrewdly, i put my tag on, and then throughout the conference, people started walking up to me and circumstances hey, joe, so hmo, what do you know? so after a while, i thought, my god, you couldn't make this up. this is completely absurd. other people were calling me joe the photographer, but that guy is balder than i am, but you have can call me joe. i'm the eyes of the common man. i'm honored to be part of your closeup view of the nation's capitol. and i understand most of you just arrived in the last day or two. have any of you -- what have you seen so far? can you tell me, give me an idea of -- >> washington monument. >> washington monument. >> veterans mall. >> what do you plan to see or should i ask sam to see what he's going to show you?
>> when you go back home with your students, without your children, or even your parents or your friends, how do you think you will take this home with you? how will you share it? >> in pictures. >> this is one of the reasons i have do what i love, because i too love the american story, but i like to tell that story with the camera. exhibit a. so like you, what john was saying, i was a former teacher, not a former, but a -- a farmer teacher. that's a midwestern accent if you didn't notice. and i was an american history teacher. but basically, i was more in love with the story of america and i had more interest in the philosophy of america indument
matily, i earned -- ultimately i learned from john's wife, if you're a teacher, you're not supposed to smile until january and i was less a person for giving discipline and more a person that required much discipline. so consequently, i was looking for a larger classroom. and today, that's what my project is called, visions of america, and the photos can be found in hundreds of photos, not only published in textbooks and magazines, but really across not only the united states, but the world, but specifically in this book. and i should say, if you are interested in the book, it's too heavy to carry with you on the plane, so it does come with a small little chiropractor's gift certificate, in case you throw out part of your back. it's 8 pounds and if the new economic reality i was thinking one of the best ways maybe to market it was not by its $75
price tag but by the price per picture, so i basically came up, i think it's only 7 cents a picture, so if you want just one picture, you can cut that out. so as john was describing, i consider myself a photo historian and specifically, instead of a pen, i use the camera as my tool. i tell the story of america in pictures, and most recently, in various ways if music, images, in lyrics in this project. in fact, recently i was looking at a sign if a camera store which basically is where i deposit most of my revenue, and i was looking at the word camera and then all of a sudden i was going, huh, now i'm from california, so you have to process this. but basically, if you rescramble those letters, it's almost an anno gram. take the c, move it around. camera almost smells america. now you can try this at home. you can spell it out. the only thing it's missing is
the i. the i of the camera. so i figured the cameras was a great way for me to tell the story of america. i'm particularly attracted to the marquis lafayette. the motion i heard america, i loved her and as john said, that can be a bumper sticker or it can be a row found law and i -- profound law and i think as you come to washington, d.c., you will come to love her as well. i also have a belief in personal destiny, and it's not in a karmaic way in a religious or indian way, but it's more like the, i guess you would say metaphorically michael angelo that would see this scum tore in this piece of marble and in your own life, if you have this sense of your own purpose, that you can kind of eke out the path that takes you where you want to
go. mind you as i told you in front of the classroom, whilists comfortable moving my jaws up and down, i clearly didn't feel like that was the particular place i should be in order to be in that classroom. and as teachers, some of you i know are government teachers and others ones cover civics, which unfortunately is not covered as often in schools as it could be and should be and also american history, but basically, the story of america is in those details in the books around -- and i have to find my trail, so my personal trail and personal story began on the banks of the mississippi. just off owed route 66. now these are the clues of how you find your purpose. so my purpose was where i was born. i was born if st. louis in a small town called webster east
grove. i've ronically in the town i grew up, they actually, 60 minutes -- or not 60 minutes, cbs, isolated my community as the most typical community in the united states. and i went, hmmm. there must be something here. i'm tip l cool. after all, i am joe shmo. the eyes of the upon man. so consequently, i went on, i actually bought pi first house. well, years later, i found my first house was in jefferson county and jefferson county at that time was actually geographically the population center of the united states. so now the story is emerging. we've got the eye of america with the camera, with the most typical community in america growing up on the banks of the mississippi, and he's named joe shmo. the story starts to emerge. heir in the midwest, where of
the river that separates the east from the west, frequently in st. louis is one of the things i like about it and if you grew up there, you could attest to this, is that basically, they call it the last city of the east or the first city of the west. that's why that big gateway arch is there. so if joe shmo grew up in st. louis, i guess you could say it's sort of like where superman came from, which is crip ton. so we would specialize as a youth, off of route 66 as getting lost and ultimately not doing a very good job of it because i ultimately found my way home and back to washington, d.c. but this became almost an obsession in my youth and it became an obsession as i'm embarrassed to say, as an adult too. i have spent more time getting lost than most of you people have been found. so in fact, that almost became my daily commute.
destiny, this was my destination, or no destination at all. and this is where i find my photos. these photos are easy to find. you know where the jefferson memorial is. you know where the world war ii memorial is. you have also know where the u.s. capitol is and you will know where the lincoln memorial is, because sam and others will take you there. but many of the photos that i take are what you would call found america. i find it, when, in the most unexpected places, like just today, i get an e-mail coming in from -- i have scouts and this one was, there was going to be a police ceremony for a fallen officer. well, i photographed those before, where hundreds of officers all lined up and it's quite a moves experience, but today i was told that look in the sky and there would be eight helicopters flying offer the city, and someplace over washington, there was.
so to be a photo historian is to basically walk and view life through a viewfinder, which is what i do. even if the camera is not at my face, basically, my gut instinct is, i'm on the search, looking for photos. whether it's the u.s. capitol that i'm photographing, or possibly a man sleeping on the streets, under the u.s. capitol. not completely in view. where you place the camera is basically the story you can tell and that's the selectivity of the photograph and what it kasai. basically he day i go out on a photo shoot. camera is my eyes and my ears. they aid what jefferson said, learning is a lifelong adventure. if such, that's the journey that
i want to enjoy. for me, my success or failure as a photographer depends upon the foundation of where our nation came from and where we're going. as a photo historian, i need to anticipate, if i want to shoot a baseball game, do i think the phyllis are going to win or do i think the yankees are going to win? but with i photographed the opening game of all the major leagues in the united states, i had a gut instinct it was the phillies, so fortunately, i photographed the phillies opening day and i went on to photograph them again at the dodgers same during the national league finals. it's the same with the cherry blossoms. i've called up john many times, he's one of my scouts and said when are the cherry blossoms going to bloom? no one knows. the cherry blowsesome is scheduled for april 1, or around that date and it's the same with the autumn leaves in new england, and frequently, i have found those leaves aren't always
changing on time, but you have try to anticipate the shot. it's of the same thing with presidential candidates. which one is going to win? where are you going to focus your camera? who are you going to spend your time with? do you want to focus on the guy that's going to finish second or third or fourth or do you want to pick of the guy that's going to win? well, fortunately, when i have photographed the des moines, iowa, state fair, which is a great place to photograph candidates, because in essence, they come to you, that's one of my great metaphors of following basketball, as michael juror done said, when he was younger, he would take the shots. when he got orlando, he -- got older, he would let the shots come to him. it was obvious during this presidential campaign that we were in a sea changing environment here, so i tended to
focus on senator obama and fortunately when i went to the iowa state fair, i had not been there for probably 40 seconds and there was senator obama standing virtually right in front of me and at that time it wasn't 250 photographers, it was only seven or nine guys, so fortunately, that's one of the things that i -- that you do, in taking pictures, is not only do you learn to forecuss, take shots, -- focus, take shots, but also you learn when you're shooting presidential candidates to walk backwards really well, but you have to be able to walk backwards while you're changing lenses, going this way and at the same time without stepping in front of another photographer, who will swat you on the back of your bald spot if you do. many of my images are these fixed locations, which i would call in my book, i call amer
icons, an one of the reasons i was really drawn to the iconic america, or amer icons, was that when you really think about it, when the united states started in the 1770's and 1780's, there was no jefferson memorial. there was no world war ii memorial. there was no u.s. capitol. there were none of these iconic elements and our founders had the vision that basically, if you're going to create a new concept, basically i and this concept is democracy or a republic as we know it, that we need to create the symbols of what this is, and what we represent and how do you represent we, the people. after all, france had versailles and england had its coat he arms and all nations had different ways of symbolizing their belief system, but we had virtually nothing. we barely had a flag. fortunately forked ben franklin, he didn't get his will on everything, because he did propose the turkey as our
national symbol and i think the bald eagle was a much, much better choice. in fact, the eagle you'll see in my pictures actually has a name. this is a eagle where you get closeups and i had to get a model release out of him, we call them an eagle release in the trade and he's bald too, but his name is challenger, and i did ins during the presidential inaugural, they showed old challenger. i found him at dolly parton has her own, dollywood and i went to dollywood because i thought that was part of americana and they had an eagle refuge location there and challenger was there and apparently challenger was shot out of an airplane, not a good way to -- good way to end up in the federal penitentiary if you do that, but anyway, i photographed him. over the years, i've been kind of picking my way, trying to get i've conic america.
one of my best stories possibly is mt. rushmore, going there early in the morning at 5:00 a.m. to get your tripod spot, you think everything is completely set. there's not a tourist in sight. the sun is coming upping going to hit all four presidents perfectly. hours go by, i bring up more cameras, more tripods, more equipment, wait and wait and wait. suddenly the first pink color starts to hit george washington's carved in granite and then it's hitting jefferson but not hitting the other two presidents, because they're all living in the shadows of george washington. and as you can say, that metaphorically as well. infoographer, that's not a -- photography, that's not a good thing. you want even light willing on all four of them. so i wait and wait and the pink light is slightly golden, which is what you want, and slightly
to yellow and then suddenly the sky is turning blue and the magic moment is just being lost, but at a certainly point, there's all four presidents. i've driven a day and a half from denver to get to south dakota, to get this shot, and just when i think everything is right, i go oh, all i need is 1/8 of a second and i'll get my shot and i'll be on my wave to the next location. at that point with you think nothing can go wrong, always something will. at that point, somebody walks out on the top of lincoln's head. i didn't even know that you could get on the top of lincoln's head. so i'm watching this little dot and of course, he doesn't have green t-shirt on, he has an orange t-shirt and it's in the book by the way. i was so absurd, i had to photograph hem. so this morning dot is walking on the top of lincoln's head and i say oh my god, it's lincoln and he has some kind of an
orange like a zit on him or something, so at that point i guess i kind of channeled my inner new yorker. i said i am not going to wait another 24 hours to wait another day to get this mt. rushmore shot. not too much tourists were around. so i said, please get off abraham lincoln's head, i'm taking a picture. so at that point, the park ranger heard what i was sailing, he was very upset, he walked up to me and he said, cause me, sir, -- excuse me, sir, that's not going to happen any time soon. that is the superintendent of the national parks, he's in charge of every park west of the mississippi river. what can you do? i waited for mr. orange t-shirt to get off. ultimately he stepped around, he was out of shot, out of sight and in an eighth of a second, i had the shot. i'll always remember that superintendent and i'm sure he'll remember me too. other shots that i take are
ordinary, and i would say that's, i specialize in photographing ordinary america on an ordinary day. this is is where joe shmo comes in of because it's through the lens, which is frequently a bird's eye lens, i look for the daily things that shout out, here is america. my lens might focus on this homeless man in beverly hills that i got, where in beverly hills, you're not homeless for too long. if you are, you move to santa monica. but basically, i found a homeless man sleeping underneath a beverly hills bank. so i have laid down in the street to get at eye level with him, because the shot was basically -- basically, many of these shots, this is not specifically -- this is on directed, but other shots are juxtapositions. it's the irony that you're looking for. homeless man underneath the -- one of the richest areas in the united states in beverly hills.
it seemed kind of unusual to me. i came back five minutes later after i got the shot, he was gone, probably on his what to santa monica, which with very accepting of all people. other shots are simply driving around in stonington, maine, my favorite tiny fishing village in maine. it takes a long little drive off route 1 to get there and when you get there, the sunlight is coming up and of course, its magic our is always what i'm looking for. the first two hours of sunrise and the last two hours. but there at the last moment, you see a very older manwalking out on his front punish putting up an american flag. the flag goes up, that's the shot. it shouts, this is america. or another shot when i'm photographing support obama at that time, soon to be press obama, he's eating an