In his introduction to Arthur Griffin’s book “New England in Focus”, writer John Updike referred to his friend Arthur’s “friendly fury” that “rendered him ageless…” Here to me is an image by Arthur Griffin that really speaks to this energy that Updike makes reference. Taken on May 11, 1939 at the Boston Opera House, this image is of the great pianist Ignacy Paderewski.
This image makes an IMPRINT as we realize the photograph was taken in dim lighting, with very slow black and white 35mm film and the audience is on the stage with the subject. Needless to say it was a very challenging photograph to articulate.
But how did Arthur shoot this image with so very little light? He held the program for the concert in front of his lens, then opened the shutter and left it open. When he thought Mr. Paderewski’s head might be still, he removed the program. When the pianist moved his head again, Arthur put the program back in front of the lens building up exposure. He used the stage curtain to determine when the pianist’s head returned to the original position. Arthur repeated this procedure through 2 rolls of film. Out of 72 tries, two images were usable, although hints of movement are present.
Despite the difficulties it took to render this photograph, it appeared on the front page of “The Globe” right after the performance and appeared again at the time of Paderewski’s death in the rotogravure section of “The Globe” in 1941.
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