Friday, April 5, 2013

Jon Naar Photographer

Quick -- how old do you think this man is? 

Jon Naar mesmorized a crowd of photographers, and photography-admirers at a talk today at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. Now through May 5 (coincidentally his 93rd birthday), his work is on display in a room on the 2nd floor of the museum. In 40 minutes he spoke about four styles of his photographs: 

  • black and white images taken in Europe in the early 1960s 
  • advertising photographs from the early days of his career 
  • photographing famous people in the 1960s 
  • his famous pictures of NYC graffiti in the 1970s
His work spanned the days from when he was a "weekend" photographer to a picture of Times Square taken last year -- more than 5 decades of photographs.

If this link works ( it will be a great chance for out-of-the-area friends to visit the exhibit. It isn't working for me tonight.

There are a lot of amazing things you can say about Jon Naar and his career -- and they would all be true. He is charming. He is well-traveled and well-liked. He has had his eye on the pop culture scene for the second half of the 20th century -- his friend, Norman Mailer, wrote the introduction to his first book on graffiti and he famously photographed Andy Warhol, just to name two examples. He is a photographer. He is an artist. He is a man who moved from New York City to Trenton in 2000 -- at the age of 80 -- and has made many new friends. He is very active both physically and socially. 

Listening to him speak today what stood out was that he did not become a professional photographer until he was 44, and yet has had a career in that field for nearly 50 years. I'm 43. It is not too late for me to find a passion and have a career spanning decades.

It would be an understatement to say I want to be him when I "grow up." I want to have his ability to constantly make new friends (while keeping the old --like the Girl Scout song). I want to be up for new adventures and to take on new challenges. I want to find my passion and follow it.

Don met Jon Naar 13 years ago on a bike ride through Trenton. After introducing each other Jon said "I moved into your old house." At that point the house was still on the market, so that wasn't quite true. What was true, though, was that he acquired our old phone number. 

As we were leaving, Jon came up to Don and I and gave us bug hugs and thanked us for coming. People kept trying to talk to him, but, ever the gentleman and host, he wanted to make sure we knew he appreciated us coming. 

If you get a chance to see the exhibit, please do so.

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