Five Fab Fotos with Debra L. Rothenberg, A Visual Conversation with Imaginative Professionals

Meet Debra L. Rothenberg, Photographer/Photojournalist:

Debra L Rothenberg

As I was sitting in my home on the Upper West Side in NYC thinking to some of my most influential photographers, I realized that 3 of the 5 of them are New Jerseyeans, such as myself and they are all women, and extremely strong women with unstoppable passion.

Debra’s first book, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IN FOCUS PHOTOGRAPHS 1980-2012 hit books stores on October 1, 2013. The Wall Street Journal said it was one of “the best photo books for fall” and The NY Daily News called it “amazing” and it was #2 on the amazon best sellers list for several months.

Purchase book here

Purchase book here

For more info:http://debrarothenberg.com/

Survivors gaze at photographer Margaret Bourke-White and rescuers from the United States Third Army during the liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945. Margaret Bourke-White—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Survivors gaze at photographer Margaret Bourke-White and rescuers from the United States Third Army during the liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945.
Margaret Bourke-White—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

1. Margaret Bourke White. She was one of the photographers whose work I saw first. My mother loved her documentary work and spoke of her images often. When I was younger, I wanted to become the next Margaret Bourke White in the field of photojournalism but it didn’t take long before I realized I just didn’t have the talent she did. She was the first woman to be allowed to cover combat zones during WW11. I had always hoped I would have been asked to shoot in a similar situation but the closest I ever came was a war reenactment. There are so many of her images that stand out to me, but one in particular was shot at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during liberation in 1945. In 1996, I was the photographer for the March of The Living, an annual educational program which brings students from around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust. On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), thousands of participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp complex built during World War II. As I stood in some of the same places she photographed decades later, her images were so clear in my mind.

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California aka "Migrant Mother".  Photo by Dorothea Lange Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California aka “Migrant Mother”. Photo by Dorothea Lange Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

2. Dorothea Lange is another photographer whose work will always stand out. Her documentary work from the depression era and of the poor was so stark and moving that it’s hard to believe they were shot almost 80 years ago. Her image, “Migrant Mother” from 1936 could easily have been shot today.

3. Lynn Goldsmith. My personal favorite! Her celebrity portraits of some of rock and roll’s biggest icons are so full of life and I don’t think there is a musician that she hasn’t photographed. But the work that I always liked best was her live concert photography. I first became aware of her back in the late 70’s when I was introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen by a high school printing/photography teacher, John Heyn. It was at this time that my life changed and I knew I wanted to be a photographer, and shoot music, especially Bruce Springsteen. I never thought either would happen and I would look at her images daily, often while playing a bootleg cassette of one of Springsteen’s concerts with the lights dimmed-her images always made me feel as if I was AT that concert. I started shooting Bruce as a fan in 1980 while in college and upon graduating in 1984, started my career as a staff photographer for various newspapers in several states. I would still go to his concerts as often as he toured-he was definitely one of my favorite subjects. I was always trying to capture him in the way Lynn did-showing his energy and love of performing-this is the main thing that has stuck with me and what I try to capture with every performer I shoot. When I received a letter from some young teen telling me they love to look at my images while listening to a boot leg of one of his concerts because it made her feel as if she was at the concert, it was a great gift. Shooting concerts has been a huge part of my career and my first book, “Bruce Springsteen In Focus Photographs 1980-2012” was published last October.

Embed from Getty Images

4. Diane Arbus. Her images to me were beautiful in a haunting way. What drew me to her work was that most of her subjects were what people described as freaks and loners and I often describe myself that way. As a photographer, we are alone so much of the time-not when we are taking the photos, but back in the days of printing your images in the darkroom and now sitting in front of the computer processing, we have to be ok being alone. She was never afraid to get up close and personal with her subjects-people that may have scared others because they looked different and that helped me to not be afraid to approach anyone.

5. Julie Dermansky. This may not be a name people know YET, but it is only a matter of time. Julie was a very successful painter and sculpture artist when she decided to switch careers in 2004. I had the pleasure of meeting her on the #1 subway in NYC in 2011 and we have been close friends ever since. If there is some action happening anywhere in the world, Julie is there. Climate change and social justice are 2 stories she photographs monthly. This is a woman who can get access to shooting in places that others are denied. For instance, when Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, the town of Seaside Heights was closed off. Local news photographers as well as those from NYC were denied access, yet Julie was allowed to join the state police and took the first image the roller coaster sitting in the Atlantic Ocean-one of the most iconic images of that Hurricane. In Afghanistan, he was asked by a helicopter pilot if she wanted to go up for aerials. Her personality, tenacity, drive and ambition and photographic skills are going to earn her a place in photographic history as one of the greatest photojournalist of the 21st century and I am proud to call her a close friend.

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