|Bio of Ed CLARK
(1912 – 2000)
“If a photograph can arrest you for a moment, then you’ve really got something.”
Ed Clark"s career as a professional photographer spanned a period of 60 years, during which time he became an internationally known photojournalist. Born in Nashville, Mr. Clark dropped out of high school to join the Nashville Tennessean as a staff photographer. He had never used a professional camera before, but he was "willing and cheap." As time passed he became the crack photographer for the Tennessean and his pictures were being widely bought by newspapers and magazines in the U.S., the UK, Denmark and Holland. In 1936 he became a stringer for LIFE magazine, and in 1944 he joined its staff. It was the picture of Sergeant Alvin York, World War I hero, enlisting for service that caught LIFE"s eye, and they ran it for two pages, invited him to Washington, gave him a few assignments and offered him a job. Clark initially turned it down as he did not want to leave Nashville, but he began freelancing regularly for LIFE. Eighteen months later he joined LIFE"s photographic staff, where he worked for 22 years. During that time, his assignments took him to Beverly Hills, Paris, Moscow, London and Washington D.C.
It was the spring of 1945 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the country"s only four-term president, who led a shattered American people through the Depression and most of the Second World War, had just died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Ed Clark drove all night from Nashville to Warm Springs, Georgia to cover the news. He arrived to a swarm of photographers, all trying to get the best view of the hearse carrying Roosevelt"s coffin. It was then that Clark heard one of Roosevelt"s favorite hymns Goin"Home being played on an accordion. With his Leica camera in hand, he snapped a few frames of Navy bandsman Gordon Jackson with tears streaming down his face as he played. Apparently, no one else had seen what Clark had seen, and Clark"s dramatic photograph became the symbol of a nation in grief. This photo took up an entire page in the next issue of LIFE.
Clark was present at many of the historic moments of the 20th Century. He photographed Hermann Goering, the German Luftwaffe commander at the Nuremberg war crime trials. He was the only photographer allowed in the Oval Office on Eisenhower"s last day as President; he followed J.F.K. on the presidential campaign trail and was the only photographer invited to the reception when Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall wed.
Clark"s colleague from LIFE, Hugh Sidney once said that "Clark had the eye of an artist." He said that Clark had the ability to make deeply moving images without intruding on his subject"s life. "You just did not know he was there," said Sidney. Clark would do anything to get a story - standing in the freezing cold, climbing trees, handing out fistfuls of money for tips: he tipped a steward to let him on FDR"s funeral train in 1945 and then hid in the men"s room. He became the first Western photographer to photograph Moscow in 30 years. His hotel room overlooked Red Square, and when the secret police would not allow a festival there to be photographed, Clark returned to his room and snapped pictures from the balcony while the agents pounded on his door. While covering the struggle in Little Rock, Arkansas, over integration of the schools, Clark had his son pose as a student, enabling the boy to take exclusive photos inside the school.
In 1963, LIFE needed to trim its operating budget, so the magazine cut one third of its photography staff, including Clark. He was almost half-blind at the time. He decided to hang up his camera and became a building contractor in Bethesda, Maryland, but he never stopped taking pictures in his head. Then in 1982, his family convinced him to see a doctor, who removed his cataract and implanted a new lens. The operation opened a whole new world for him: he did not realize how much he had not been able to see. In 1991, Mr. Clark came to Nashville State Tech to learn new methods and technology of black and white and color printing. It was his relationship with the college"s photography department that prompted him to donate his collection to Nashville State Tech. The Ed Clark Gallery is the only permanent collection of Mr. Clark"s photographs. Mr. Clark moved to Sarasota, Florida where he lived with his wife Joyce until his death.
Ed Clark did not try to articulate what photography meant to him: "A philosophy would screw me up," he said. "Our senses are so assailed by different things. I just tried to get people to stop.