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David Scherman discusses “The Best of Life,” a book he edited

BROADCAST: Oct. 12, 1973 | DURATION: 00:46:41


Photographer David Scherman talks with Studs Terkel about the stories that photos can tell, famous photographers, and the book “The Best of Life,” which Scherman edited. A recording of the song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” by the Weavers is played.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel I'm thinking, the man says, "That's incredible." It's David Scherman who's responsible for perhaps one of the most remarkable books in recent years dealing with photographs, capturing moments of history in our lives. It's "The Best of Life", and Dave Scherman had for years been a photographer for "Life" and then became the book editor and the film review editor. And you, Dave, conceived this collection of all these photos and you, you were saying?

David Scherman No, I was just saying, I was just pointing to this one picture that's incredible because the incredible part about this picture is that five guys made this picture of the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937. They were all standing shoulder to shoulder, so what really, what really mattered there was who got to New York first with the picture, Studs, and the guys began shelling out money and greenbacks at the airport to hire planes to get the picture to New York. Sam Shere, I think, won the derby, and he paid the most money. He was with I-N-P at the time, and he got his picture in first, and so this picture in the book is the one that really, that the world knew about later on.

Studs Terkel Now you're talking now about accidents, too, aren't you, I mean aside from accident of the Hindenburg, the explosion of it, I mean the accident of photography, too.

David Scherman Right. Well, you mean the accident of pho-- The accident of photojournalism, you mean?

Studs Terkel Yes, photojournalism.

David Scherman Well, photojournalism was, I'm sure you remember it even better than I, Studs, was just waiting to burst out wide open all over the world around 1935 and 1936. And "Time" had experimented a lot with photojournalism. The German papers had already begun, the "Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung", and not "Match" yet, but a lot of, a lot of German papers had begun photojournalism. In America we hadn't really begun it yet, there was only "The New York Times" pictorial, midweek pictorial at the time, and we were, we were just as anxious as anybody to get it off the ground. And so we experimented a time with photojournalism and put together a dummy for about a year, we called it "Dummy" in rehearsal. And then in November 1936 we had bought the name of the old humor magazine, "Life", and we tagged it on the front of the thing and that's all we needed to

Studs Terkel You know, several things come to mind: How "Life", this magazine that depends upon photographers, primarily, did for a generation in what, 1936? In the depths of Depression, to '73.

David Scherman To '72, was the

Studs Terkel '72. You used the phrase "photojournalism." What specifically does it mean, how did this phrase

David Scherman Well, photojournalism is a lot different from pure photography. And that's, this gets us into a big argument which is kind of footless, to my mind. Photog-- pure photography is the kind of thing that the Museum of Modern Art was crazy about. Edward Steichen was, was an expert at, and John Szarkowski, who is the new curator of photography at the museum. I don't have any argument with them, but to them, pure photography is the single picture, the single artistic picture. To me, photojournalism has to tell a story, and has to have some captions attached to it. And that's what, that I think is what we at "Life" pioneered from 1936 until we suspended publication in 1972.

Studs Terkel I was, I'm thinking, I'm thinking of this remarkable photojournalist, perhaps one of the greatest photographers, of Margaret Bourke-White, of course.

David Scherman She was the first photographer on our staff.

Studs Terkel She was? Yeah.

David Scherman Yeah.

Studs Terkel And I was thinking, you said

David Scherman -- And Eisenstaedt, of course.

Studs Terkel You said before we went on the air, Dave, Dave Scherman, you said that it's like an old -- Some of these photographs are like an old song. That they haunt you, they're there. Suppose we hear an old song, and this old song will blend right under Margaret Bourke's-White photograph of that very theme.

David Scherman Yeah. It's a great picture.


Studs Terkel As we hear that song, lyrics of Yip Harburg and the Depression song, Dave Scherman, who's edited this remarkable book, "The Best of Life", we're looking at a Margaret Bourke-White photograph that deals with the very theme, doesn't it?

David Scherman It certainly does. It's a picture of a, a picture of a billboard with a very happy white WASP American family under a caption which reads, "World's highest standard of living. There's no way like the American way." And in front of it is a bread line.

Studs Terkel And then there is of Black people, primarily.

David Scherman Of Black people, primarily, yeah.

Studs Terkel They could be just poor people, generally. And this is Margaret Bourke-White's, you describe this then as photojournalism.

David Scherman This is photojournalism. It says more in one, it says more in one picture about the Depression almost than anything you want. And another picture that says more about photojournalism is that picture I was telling you about. Well, the Eisie, you just had, you, you were talking to Eisie recently.

Studs Terkel Yeah,

David Scherman Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Studs Terkel He was one of your photographers.

David Scherman He was one of the early photographers. This picture he took of V-J Day in Times Square tells more about the happiness that we all felt at V-J Day than anything else. It's the subject matter that differentiates photojournalism from

Studs Terkel -- Why don't you describe that one, that one, describe that photograph?

David Scherman I describe it. Oh, yes, this marvelous picture of a sailor kissing a girl at the instant of V-J day on August 14th, 1945, and the funny thing about it is, that Eisenstaedt waited around until he could get a girl with a white dress on which would contrast with the black or dark uniform of the sailor. And Eisie tells me that he's had a lot of telephone calls and letters from many girls all over the country since, saying claiming that they were the one.

Studs Terkel They were the one. Yeah, they saw Babe Ruth hit the home run, too, it's the same prin -- But that's a celebrated photo that expresses the feeling of that, that's also part of it. This first part of your book is called "The Moment", isn't

David Scherman "The Moment Preserved",

Studs Terkel "The Moment Preserved", and just the very opening, the photograph, the frontispiece, the one is again Margaret Bourke-White, this

David Scherman Well, that was the first picture that "Life" ever ran, Studs. It was the, it was the frontispiece of "Life" in November 23rd, 1936, and it's the first picture aptly, suitably, in this, in this book, and it's a picture of dancing girls, taxi dancers at a saloon near Fort Peck, Montana, which was a PWA or WPA project during the Depression to build this big mud dam, and Margaret Bourke-White went out and did the, did the pictures, and that was our first photographic essay.

Studs Terkel You, you worked with Margaret Bourke-White.

David Scherman Well, I know, I knew Peggy very well. I never worked with her, I was a competitor of hers. I mean, we were, we were on the staff, and as you know, all photographers are the worst egotists in the world, and we competed with one another, but we were friendly competitors.

Studs Terkel What was her, when you talked with her at the times you did, what was her, what was she looking for?

David Scherman She was looking for, she was looking for just what we were talking about, the moment, the way of preserving a moment, you know, on film. To get as much both aesthetically and historically in a single picture as she possibly could.

Studs Terkel Just as she does, at there two shots, one a Russian, Russia 1942, the mother or the wife fainting, seeing, it looks like something out of a film, and of course, the most celebrated of all World War II shots, perhaps, the Frenchman crying during the occupation of Paris.

David Scherman That's a movie, that's a movie clip, too, Studs, did you know that? It's interesting, if you can, if you can stop action by taking a single frame out of a moving picture film, you get the same effect that I'm telling you about. It doesn't have to

Studs Terkel Why don't we describe these two photos because they're both quite remarkable in capturing that moment you're talking about.

David Scherman Well, the moment, of course, is when the German armies marched into Marseilles in 1941 and there's a Frenchman standing on the street there with his wife or somebody next to him, and he's crying. And I guess that's a, that's a celebrated picture in the annals of, of defeat, if you like, or in the annals of war, and the one on the opposite page is just as celebrated, it's the, it's the anguished Russian woman being held up by a friend when she witnesses the bodies of her family killed by the Germans in 1942.

Studs Terkel And these were from films, you say.

David Scherman The one on the right is from a, from a motion picture film, and I'm

Studs Terkel Let me come to one part from the greatest of all photographers of our time, Cartier-Bresson. And we come to the Shanghai shot on page 28. How can you describe this, as this, this occupies two pages. How can you describe this?

David Scherman Well, you can describe it, you can really describe it as a moment of human panic, can't you, Studs? It's when there was a run on the banks in 1948 and everybody was afraid that they couldn't get their money out, so they began to gang up outside the bank and to try to get in, and they were, they were really pressed massed humanity and Cartier-Bresson, of course, who wrote a book called "The Exact Instant", do you remember Cartier's book, "The Exact Instant"? He says this better than anybody else, because his whole book is dedicated to the proposition of catching history at the exact instant on film . The one on the, the one next to it is interesting. It's a, it's a picture that George Silk took in China during the 1946 famine. And there's a, there's a fat smiling black-market rice merchant sitting there in the background, and in front of her is a completely skinny emaciated beggar begging for rice or for money. It tells a lot, doesn't it, about cruelty and about selfishness.

Studs Terkel You see, both these photos, the Cartier-Bresson one, and Silk's one, tell us about the human condition both, don't they, the two aspects of man, don't they?

David Scherman Telling us about the human condition, for my money, Studs, is really what has made this book such a popular book. You know, the book is fantastically successful, and a lot of people say, "Oh, it's successful because of nostalgia and people worry, you know, people think about nostalgia, and they'll buy anything that's nostalgia, but on the other hand, the book is successful with little kids who can't remember anything about this period. So therefore I conclude that it's not so much nostalgia that's made this book popular as the fact that people are interested in the human condition. People, people love history. People want to know where they've been and they want to know what they've escaped and they want to know where they're going. And this book speaks to that desire, I think, and that's a very positive, for my money, a very positive, a positive phenomenon rather than just pure nostalgia, or

Studs Terkel I think this book, the book that Dave Scherman is referring to as "The Best of Life", and it's "Life" magazine's most memorable, as Dave chose them, the most memorable photographs of the, of this generation from 1936, the depth of the Depression through World War II through Cold War, through athletics, through

David Scherman Well, through

Studs Terkel Absurdity.

David Scherman Through absurdity, through fads, through the, through the, through the crazy way we live. We have a chapter in here called "The Variety of Life""

Studs Terkel Yeah,

David Scherman Through the youth, through the youth rebellion, too, growing up and through the Black, through the Black rebellion.

Studs Terkel Blacks and children. But let's stick with me-- There's one photo haunts me, that's again two pages in this book, and that's Belfast. Belfast 1971.

David Scherman This is

Studs Terkel Now we gotta stick with

David Scherman This is almost, this is almost the best picture in the book, as far as I'm concerned, Studs, because it has everything that a news picture should be. It has beautiful composition, it is a picture of a patrol of British soldiers charging up the street behind Plexiglas shields. There are guns at the ready, and cowering in the doorway, two doorways, are two Belfast women who got caught in the action and don't know what to do about it. The picture, as I say, has got composition, it has news value, it has ironic tragic humor of the women cowering in the doorway, it's simply the best of the moments preserved.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking this moment, I'm looking at it now and I am absolutely mesmerized. The young soldiers -- At the same time,

David Scherman They seem, yes

Studs Terkel They were probably terrified themselves by that unknown, which is the IRA. They don't know. But then they -- Meantime they have the Plexiglas shields and they're soldiers the world over of an invading army, of an alien army, and you have these two women, one is a middle-aged woman, we see her in the background in the middle of the picture in the doorway hiding, but the other one is the most distinctive one to me. It's a young woman. It's almost comic.

David Scherman Yes.

Studs Terkel It was like a Mack Sennett heroine, but it's terror.

David Scherman Tragically comic, isn't it?

Studs Terkel And there's terror. And she has her hand against her mouth, and she's seeing these soldiers that are ignoring her. They're looking for whoever they are looking for

David Scherman Yeah.

Studs Terkel And she, that particular shot. There's a sort of incongruous air to the whole thing, isn't

David Scherman You can spend a half an hour looking at that picture, Studs, and find something new in it every time. The expression on the face of one of the soldiers, that is one of the ones I can look at for a long time. The other one that I can look

Studs Terkel Yeah, there's another one, before I leave the Belfast one. Donald McCullin did it, now could you explain how some of these shots were done? We also is talk about the heroism and the tragic deaths of a good number of the photographers.

David Scherman That was done. Don was a freelance, he was not on the staff of "Life". He was working. We contacted him when we got to Belfast. Colin Leinster, our representative in Belfast, met him. This was one of those lucky breaks where we found a first-rate photographer on the scene of the crime, if you like, or on the scene of the action, and an awful lot of "Life's" pictures were obtained that way. Sure, we had a staff of 35 at our peak, but every amateur and every good photographer in the country wanted to be in "Life" because he got maximum exposure. So we never had any trouble having people come to us with their best pictures. That was a, that was a phenomenon that kept us alive.

Studs Terkel And what's the other one that attracted you from another sequence in the book?

David Scherman From another sequence in the book in the chapter on soldiers is for my, in my opinion, the most dramatic, the most beautiful picture in the book, if you want to call pictures of war beautiful. It's a picture by Larry Burrows, the late Larry Burrows, who was shortly after this picture was taken who was himself killed in action in a helicopter raid over Laos. But this picture shows a Marine who has been wounded and he was lying in the lower right hand corner of the picture, he -- I thought he was dead, until I discovered later on that he was still alive. Covered his face, was covered with mud, and reaching toward him compassionately is his, is his buddy, a Black Marine who was also badly injured and is stepping over towards him to, to help him although he himself is so badly wounded that he can hardly help himself, and the medical, the Marine medics have got their hands on him, they're helping him, and in the background are the mountains of, the mountains of the DMZ in Vietnam. I think this is, and the whole thing looks sort of like a Rembrandt painting. I think it's

Studs Terkel -- I'm thinking of a Rembrandt, you know what I was thinking of? Maybe it

David Scherman Hieronymus, Hieronymus

Studs Terkel But also has a Goya spirit, the disasters of war, too. Just as you point to that, my eye and thoughts fell toward another one, there's George Silk again. And this is also a blinded soldier, this is dealing with compassion.

David Scherman He was an Austra--

Studs Terkel Page 170.

David Scherman Yeah, he's an Australian soldier.

Studs Terkel An Australian soldier's blinded being led as though it were out of Lear, led by an Australian

David Scherman A Papuan, Papuan native, yeah, he was. It was a New Guinea or a Papuan native,

Studs Terkel A New Guinea tribesman and this is the compassion for this guy.

David Scherman A curious, I'll tell you a curious anecdote about that picture, Studs, when it was, when it was taken, the Australian press ref-- Australian government refused to allow Silk to release it to the press. It never appeared in Australia. George knew a "Life" photographer, a "Life" staff man in Sydney, and he gave it to him. The picture was sent to New York, "Life" magazine printed it, and on the strength of it, George Silk was hired and has been working for "Life" magazine ever since.

Studs Terkel Now also that in a moment. We haven't talked, you mentioned Larry Burrows killed, was Robert Capa, too.

David Scherman Capa was killed also in Vietnam, although it was called Indochina in those days, the word "Vietnam" hadn't become popular.

Studs Terkel But Capa also captured, you know, a very remarkable photograph of a soldier that, when was it, during the Spanish Civil War.

David Scherman During the Spanish Civil War in 1937. It's the most famous soldier of war picture ever made, because he captured this man just at the instant that he was hit by a fascist bullet and was falling. And I guess, I guess that picture probably says more about war than anything else, and of course Capa took the picture of D-Day on two pages later.

Studs Terkel The landing.

David Scherman The landing of D-Day. Capa and I were there at the same time, as

Studs Terkel Were you there? You know, in -- With the modesty of Dave Scherman, whom I've known for years, you have, you've hardly mentioned yourself here, your own -- You were, you were a combat

David Scherman I was a combat photographer for six years, Studs, yeah, from 19-- Well, actually I was a combat photographer almost before anybody except Capa, because I was, I was sunk before Pearl Harbor, before America got into the war. And I was lost at sea for 30 days and the paper said sorry about that, and I turned up like a bad, like a bad penny 30 days later. I'd been, I'd been sunk by a German surface raider in the South Atlantic.

Studs Terkel Funny I had to dig this out of you. I heard vaguely about it, but not from you, you see, until that very moment. But so, then we come to the photographer as also part of that human -- That is, he cannot be -- Well, that's a question I got to ask, I guess all artists face this, don't they, the question of detachment and involvement. That's the big one.

David Scherman It's a good question, and it's a, it's not an easy question to answer. We have been accused of being uncompassionate, of being hard-hearted guys who would, if somebody were about to be shot, instead of telling them that they were about to be shot, we'd wait for the event and take his picture. I don't think, I think it's, I think it's not, it's not a, it's not a fair accusation. We do have a job to do and our principal job is to cover news and if people can't look at other dead soldiers, then the soldiers probably died in vain. But in case you're, in case you think we're all hard-hearted, one of the one of the guys who was considered the most cold-blooded of all, is, was during the war, a fellow named Ralph Morse who took this picture of the wounded man in Normandy and then followed him home for four months through every hospital in the land. Now, I know Morse very well, in fact in fact he's with me in Chicago right at the moment, and I happen to know that Morse and another and another supposedly hard-hearted character, a newspaper man named Bob Cromie, Morse and Bob Cromie covered the covered the attack at Sainte-Lo in

Studs Terkel Did Bob cover it? I didn't

David Scherman Bob and Ralph and I were with the 3rd Army together, and these two so-called hard-hearted characters put down their cameras and they put down their pencils and they picked up a stretcher and they carried the wounded man out of Sainte-Lo. So, so it's you know, so it, so it, so it goes both ways.

Studs Terkel Several things. There's the Paul Schutzer's, 181, mother and dying child, that you think the photographs would tell us, and perhaps alter our own thinking, too, or affect it. This is many, many, too often, these shots, but this is one when, remember, the Vietnamese mother, wild-eyed with grief and terror, stumbles carrying her dying child.

David Scherman Yeah, when Paul Schutzer, who took that, was himself killed in the Six-Day War in Israel, as you know. He was one of the three "Life" photographers who have ever been killed. In World War II we never lost, believe it or not, a single photographer. It was not until we got into a war that we really didn't understand very well

Studs Terkel -- That's interesting.

David Scherman That we got into trouble. Could

Studs Terkel Could you, could you stick with this for a moment?

David Scherman Sure.

Studs Terkel Now, in World War II, not a photographer was

David Scherman We

Studs Terkel No, "Life" didn't, but in a war that was less comprehensible.

David Scherman Right.

Studs Terkel And that turned out to be rather obscene.

David Scherman Indochina.

Studs Terkel Something happened,

David Scherman Well, Capa, Capa had no business in Indochina. It was not his war. He was not in sympathy, I am certain he was not in sympathy with the, with the French, who he was covering the war with. He had been idle for a long time, and I think he got conned, he got conned into covering that war, and it was as I say not his war, and it was an odd, unusual, crazy one and his luck ran out. He was struck by a mine. Larry Burrows, who covered the Vietnam War, covered it for nine years. And it was only when he got into an odd, unusual, and risky situation that he, that he lost his life. He went out with a South Vietnamese patrol, a South Vietnamese helicopter, not an American helicopter, with three or four other photographers and they got lost. And they were, they were shot down, and they were all missing in action. But you're right, it -- In a war in whi-- In a just war, if you want to call any war a just war, we seem to have had fared better than we fared in other ones.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking, before we leave this, we're just dealing with two aspects of the book, one soldiers, and the other the moment, capturing the moment. We come to other aspects, the athletes, the leaders, men of clout at work, men and nature, the clubbing of foxes, the Black situation, and of course the celebrated photo of Rainey and Price smiling, accused of having killed the three civil rights workers in Mississippi. But before that, you had the agony of the mother and daughter, the Kyushu shot on page 50, again, other aspects of mercury and pollution, and what it does. [That's a celebrated one?], W. Eugene Smith.

David Scherman W. Eugene Smith, now Eugene Smith was a, Eugene Smith had a fantastic reputation as a sensitive photographer of important and significant and meaningful events. Nevertheless, it was also that same W. Eugene Smith who shot the marvelous picture of Harry Truman holding up "The Chicago Tribune" with the headline that read "Dewey Defeats

Studs Terkel He had the humor here.

David Scherman Gene Smith shot that off the cuff as a news photographer, so he's versatile.

Studs Terkel This one is more than that. This one is tremendous compassion. It's the mother tenderly bathing her daughter who was born blind and maimed, as mercury poisoning in the chemical plant.

David Scherman Yeah, but isn't it ironic that Japan, that is emerging as the great industrial state, should also be, should also be beset with these pollution problems.

Studs Terkel That's come to that.

David Scherman That's kind of a warning, isn't it?

Studs Terkel Yeah. So this is the one aspect, the book we're talking about is "The Best of Life", and it's far, far more than nostalgia, that isn't the theme at all. The theme is the human condition. And Dave Scherman, whom for years was a photographer for "Life", and later on became the book editor, is the one who gathered these. Well, did you, what -- How, how did you work at it? Perhaps we have a slight break for the moment, slight pause, how did you choose?

David Scherman I'll tell you, I was editing just before "Life" suspended publication in 1972. I was editing, editing a section in the magazine called "Years Ago." Do you remember that? We had 23 years ago in "Life", 35 years ago in "Life", and so forth. That was my idea, and I edited that section for two years, and so I had collected a lot of the old famous promos, the old songs, if you like, the old clichés. And I had them in my possession. So that when we suspended publication, I called the managing editor and said, "I think we ought to do a book on the best pictures of 'Life', and what's more, I think I ought to do it because I've got all these famous pictures in my desk, and if you don't let me do it I'll burn them all." And he said, "Well, that's a good, that's the toughest proposition I've had in a long time." He joked about it. And also I had been there. I'm the only, I'm the oldest living inhabitant, Studs, I was there with the first issue.

Studs Terkel Really?

David Scherman And I was there with

Studs Terkel That was 1936.

David Scherman And I'm the only man who was, or woman who was, on the staff with the first issue and on the staff with the last issue. So that qualified me for the job, and another thing that qualified me for the job was, that I was a photographer, and an editor and the only photographer/editor combination. So he said, "Go ahead and do it." I sat down for two weeks and read 1,864 copies of "Life", from beginning to end in bound volumes, it took me two weeks, and as I read I made notes. I had decided to divide this thing up into sensible chapters first, and I made notes as I went along and I picked the greatest pictures literally as we, as we went through.

Studs Terkel Quite remarkable. We'll pause for a moment and resume the conversation and the description of the photographs, "The Best of Life", with Dave Scherman, the guy responsible for it, published by, well, the publisher's what?

David Scherman Time-Life

Studs Terkel Time-Life Books. And this is quite a celebrated, this will be a celebrated book, no doubt it is. It is now, too. Un momento. Resuming the conversation, but also looking at photographs, and Dave Scherman my guest, perhaps describing them, too. You say you divided it. We talked about the moments captured.

David Scherman Children.

Studs Terkel War, children.

David Scherman Fads, soldiers.

Studs Terkel Athletes, you got a shot here. Athletes. And it's Mark Spitz. I have my own thoughts about him. And it's funny, my own thoughts about him suddenly lead me to look at this remarkable photograph by Co

David Scherman Co Rentmeester.

Studs Terkel And he's splashing, it says, "He seems more amphibian than human," and I see this photo of him, he looks like a plastic man to me.

David Scherman Yes, it's incredible, isn't it, it does have a plastic quality

Studs Terkel He looks plastic, utterly plastic, and almost Orwellian, almost an Orwellian product. As you watch him, you see him. How was he, how did?

David Scherman Rentmeester had to

Studs Terkel Rentmeester.

David Scherman Rentmeester had to run up and down the pool while Spitz was working. And when I say run, I'm not kidding. He had, he had to move very fast because Spitz can swim about as fast as a normal person can walk or run. And he took many, many pictures and this was the, this was the one, this -- There were he took a cover. There's one that's quite like this, that was a cover of "Life". This one was not the cover, but I think a better, a better and more significant picture.

Studs Terkel Oh, it nearly, as I go back and forth, there's some remarkable athlete shots. Why, why would you say that was the more significant picture, this one?

David Scherman More, simply because, simply because it's an extreme close-up, and it shows you something you never saw about an athlete

Studs Terkel Yeah. I didn't. Yeah. And it also

David Scherman Look at the way he breathes. I've always wondered how those guys breathed when they swam, didn't you? And then Co shows that in this picture very well.

Studs Terkel Something about the eyes, though, behind the glasses.

David Scherman Oh, that's very sinister.

Studs Terkel Yeah. Sinister as though to me again, the eye not a machine.

David Scherman Yes.

Studs Terkel A machine-like eye.

David Scherman He certainly wasn't paying any attention to the photographer.

Studs Terkel We've come, I want to come back to one, suddenly I turned the page, and it's a great shot. Wendell Willkie during his campaign for president against FDR in '40, '40 returned to his hometown, page 12, Elwood, Indiana.

David Scherman I think it's the most famous campaign picture ever made,

Studs Terkel And it's a great shot.

David Scherman It's got that carnival, doesn't it have that carnival, carnival attitude about it? Everybody's having a good time, Wendell Willkie is standing up in the back seat of an open car, and all the mobs are chasing, chasing along behind him.

Studs Terkel You know what occurs to me, watching this [vote?], I didn't realize it 'til now, this moment, as I'm looking at it. Wendell Willkie, in the open car, and he's waving, and he's got the straw skimmer, and he is going along. This may be the last photograph of an old-time campaign.

David Scherman Makes you think of George M. Cohan somehow, you know, talking about old music.

Studs Terkel Yeah, but like a, this is the photo for like an old song.

David Scherman Sure.

Studs Terkel But this may be the last shot of anything that would resemble what were known as old-time political campaigns.

David Scherman Sure, with the flags lining the

Studs Terkel Because then came TV, then came Madison Avenue, to take over. Then all leading to, all roads led to Watergate.

David Scherman I know.

Studs Terkel [Unintelligible] shot.

David Scherman There is a campaign picture which is somewhat, which is somewhat reminiscent of that. It's a campaign picture of Mr. Nixon also in a car, and also tearing up the, tearing up the street that way, but somehow it doesn't have that quality. It's on page 95, Studs.

Studs Terkel Yeah, but it's also different from the time as well, you see, it's not

David Scherman Well, take a look, but look, he's surrounded by Secret Service men.

Studs Terkel That's a different thing entirely.

David Scherman I know, but isn't it interesting.

Studs Terkel Here there's a wholly different, here there is no, here there's seriousness and there's an attempt at joviality.

David Scherman It seems

Studs Terkel Whereas in the Willkie film. It's a small town in action and the carnival spirit is there.

David Scherman Everybody seems happy.

Studs Terkel Difference in time, too.

David Scherman This seems a little fake, doesn't it, the picture in 1972.

Studs Terkel Another approach, speaking pictures, now here the photographers are having fun, and they're trying different techniques, weren't they.

David Scherman "Speaking of Pictures" was simply a section where we just had a lot of fun and anybody who could think up some crazy way of making a picture always found a home for it in "Life" magazine. There's a terribly funny picture of Salvador Dali trying to paint in his studio with three cats flying across the studio and a bucket of water being thrown, and a chair dropping. Philippe Houseman caught the spirit of crazy, crazy Salvador Dali surrealism in that, in that one shot.

Studs Terkel So, and then Hausmann was using the technique of Dalí, I mean he was

David Scherman trying He was using Dali's technique to pin him down, right. He was turning the tables on Dali.

Studs Terkel There you have a whole sequence dealing with the men of clout, leaders.

David Scherman Leaders.

Studs Terkel For better or for worse. And there's the celebrated one of Hitler and Mussolini. Page 88, when the news came that Paris fell, I think.

David Scherman It was the news, no, it was the fall of France, and

Studs Terkel Fall of France.

David Scherman And it was in Compiégne, and Hitler was dancing a jig and you see his, you see his, his foot jumping up and down there, that was a, that was a newsreel clipping, too, Studs, and there's a sinister picture of Goebbels and the next to that in Geneva long before the war. Picture taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Studs Terkel I guess they'd agree one of the most photogenic and flamboyant of subjects was Khrushchev, I suppose.

David Scherman Khrushchev is marvelous. Here is the, we have four pictures of him in the book, one of them where he's shaking his fist at the Americans because of the U-2 incident. Do you remember when he broke up the

Studs Terkel Carl Mydans'

David Scherman Mydans, Carl Mydans' picture when he broke up the, broke up the summit conference when he heard about the U-2. And then as a as a contrast to that, there were three pictures of Khrushchev clowning on the balcony in Park Avenue in New York where he's kidding with the press, and he looks more like Harpo Marx, doesn't he, than the leader of a state.

Studs Terkel These photos help explain, or rather it's something up with Murray Kempton's marvelous essays on Khrushchev. He was in the journalistic entourage that followed him. And he, he has to be one of the favorites of photographers,

David Scherman I miss him.

Studs Terkel Because he is a great clown,

David Scherman Great clown, great, great photogenic face.

Studs Terkel You take shots of him?

David Scherman I've never, I've never taken shots of Khrushchev. I ended my photographic career around 1953, Studs, and I was an editor after that.

Studs Terkel Then there's a shot that I -- Hits me. When the news came as certain people caught in certain moments. When the news came that Truman fired MacArthur, here's a shot of Eisenhower.

David Scherman Looking very dubious.

Studs Terkel Wow. What a -- Francis Grandy did that one.

David Scherman Yes. It was a, I don't know, I don't know. I think that was, I think that was a service picture. I don't

Studs Terkel That's an incredible photograph. You don't know what Eisenhower's thinking there, do you?

David Scherman No, he's -- But he doesn't look very happy, does

Studs Terkel Well, he can't figure it out. The idea that a general was fired, though he even disagreed with him, that's

David Scherman Speaking of Carl Mydans, on that same spread is a wonderful picture of MacArthur returning from, return returning to the Philippines. But that's not the real return, that's, that -- He staged that for Carl Mydans.

Studs Terkel He staged it?

David Scherman Yes, because Carl Mydans was caught in Italy on another assignment when the real return came, and Mydans joined MacArthur in the Philippines and he's a great friend of MacArthur's, and MacArthur said, "Come on, Carl, we'll do it again." So he, he returned again to the Philippines just for the benefit of Carl Mydans.

Studs Terkel This is, we come -- There are so many aspects of the book, "Manners and Morals", and now we come to something interesting. "Manners and Morals" and here's -- These are photographs that I imagine caused controversy.

David Scherman Well

Studs Terkel The clubbing of the -- Wallace Kirkland, who was from Chicago, lived at Hull House for many years. Wallace caught that -- People in Ohio.

David Scherman That picture, Studs, caused us probably more mail, more angry mail, than almost any picture we ever ran in "Life", it was a picture of a little boy beating foxes to death with a stick with a lot of the neighbor folks who had been tracking these foxes or enclosing a circle around the foxes. And there's a policeman there telling the boy how to kill the foxes with the stick. We got about 10,000 letters after that picture ran, mostly angry.

Studs Terkel This was a pastime.

David Scherman This was, well it was sort of a pastime, the foxes were a nuisance, but there are ways and ways of getting rid of them without

Studs Terkel The clubbing of the foxes, And it's the smiling, I think we better stick with the smiles [unintelligible] horrify.

David Scherman Everybody seems to be rather pleased

Studs Terkel And next to it is the gunslinging Texans and we hear a lot about gun control these days. Here is something that Ralph Crane caught.

David Scherman It's a picture of a bunch of people out on a Sunday shooting doves. Apparently there's one day, one three-day season when you can shoot white wing doves in Texas, and there are about 10,000 shotgun-wielding Texans come from all over the state go out and I don't, I don't see how they avoid killing themselves. That woman over on the right has got her gun pointed either toward her foot or towards her little boy who's standing

Studs Terkel But that's there again the horrifying aspect that makes all these photographs far from nostalgic, very contemporary as there's a housewife, just good, God-fearing law-abiding housewife with that gun and there's a great glee, he's looking to shoot that little white bird, you know.

David Scherman I know, but the housewife on the right is going to shoot herself in the foot if she doesn't watch out.

Studs Terkel But I'm thinking both of them in my mind connect with something entirely different and this deals with the whole subject of the Black theme. And there is the celebrated perhaps horrendous photo

David Scherman Of Rainey and Price.

Studs Terkel Rainey and Price, who remember the evidence pretty heavy.

David Scherman I think what are they

Studs Terkel -- Involving them in the -- In the killings of the three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi and everybody is smiling in the court.

David Scherman Yeah, they don't look like they're in trouble at all. Actually, I think they got a slap on the wrist, did they not?

Studs Terkel Oh, Rainey was -- Perhaps you describe the -- I think it's worth -- The smiles. There are smiles that make you happy and there are smiles that make you not so much blue as furious and this is one. Bill Reid took this, and they're being tried for possible involvement with the killing

David Scherman The lynch murders.

Studs Terkel Of the three guys.

David Scherman Yeah.

Studs Terkel Everybody's smiling.

David Scherman Everybody seems to be smiling and the fella on Rainey, the sheriff on the right, is not only smiling, but he has just loaded a huge chaw of tobacco in his, in his, in his mouth. They're smiling as if to say they did something which was creditable. They are not afraid of being arraigned or indicted or convicted.

Studs Terkel Rainey was acquitted and Price was given a six-year sentence, I

David Scherman A six-year sentence, but I think it has been subsequently

Studs Terkel But something happened with "Life's" publication of this, there was an aftermath to this, wasn't there? Is it -- That the photograph was reprinted in many newspapers.

David Scherman Yeah, with a sign saying, "Support your local police" underneath

Studs Terkel Done derisively and

David Scherman The picture that, speaking of this this Black section, it's called in the book it's called "The Black Cause", speaking of that chapter, there is a famous watershed picture in the, in the whole Black, in the whole Black history, which was a picture that is not in this Black cause section but is in our famous moments preserved, and it's a picture of the hosing down of the freedom marchers in

Studs Terkel Birmingham.

David Scherman In Birmingham. They were being hosed down by Mr.

Studs Terkel Bull Connor.

David Scherman It's on page 38, by Bull Connor.

Studs Terkel I think you have to described that photo because suddenly it looks like a painting

David Scherman Well, there are two pictures, there are two pictures on the spread. One of them is with where the cops have got the police dogs out to chase the marchers and the one on the right-hand side is where they have gotten the fire department to cooperate by hosing down these people. It does look like a painting, it's really quite an astonishing picture. Charlie Moore, who was there at the time, took both of these pictures and this marks a watershed not only in America's policy towards Blacks but in "Life's" policy. We had always had a fairly, we had always had a fairly forward progressive and liberal policy towards Blacks, but when this occurred, when this episode occurred, we did a complete about-face and we were, let's say, pro-Black cause from that from that moment

Studs Terkel on. Is

David Scherman Yeah, and the country was, too, Studs.

Studs Terkel But I'm curious to know about Henry Luce.

David Scherman Well, Luce is -- Luce's attitude, Luce is no longer alive and he can't speak for himself

Studs Terkel The time.

David Scherman And I don't presume to speak for him, but his attitude was always pro-Black as long as I, as long as I had known him. I think we did essays on the Negro condition in "Life" long before, long before the Black cause developed in a large way in this country. But I think that this episode here in 1963 was a, was a turning point in not only in the country's history, as I say, but in our own history.

Studs Terkel And it, as I just go back and forth trying to cover "The Best of Life", or look through it, "Manners and Morals", there are two photographs, on 104 and 105, one dealing with youth and the other with age. A girl who had jumped from the Empire State and she's crushed, a young girl, crushed against an automobile on top of it. Opposite that is a very celebrated photograph.

David Scherman This is Frank Henderson, yeah.

Studs Terkel Who some would say "She's full of life." I would say a ridiculous woman with too much money and she's kicking, she attends all the balls.

David Scherman Well, she attends the opening night at the Met every year and nobody ever listens to the music. They all go into Louis Cheri's restaurant behind the Met, or what was that then and they show their diamonds and they show their beautiful legs as Mrs., elderly Mrs. Frank Henderson is doing in this picture.

Studs Terkel The tiara.

David Scherman And the tiara. Oddly enough, in the in the in the back of the book, Studs, there's another, on page 297. There's another very funny picture of the opening of the Met and there is another tiara-ed, be-diamonded woman, Mrs. George Washington Cavanaugh, who is, who is going to the Met with a friend of hers and the smile on her face is one of bland idiocy as far as I can see. But the thing I like about it is that angry, disgruntled bystander that that Weegee, the famous, the famous

Studs Terkel Weegee took that

David Scherman one. Weegee took that picture. And that growling, snarling woman standing on the sidelines watching Mrs. George Washington Cavanaugh.

Studs Terkel It's interesting here again, you see, isn't this again we come to photojournalism, capturing a moment, but capturing the human condition, too. The aspects of man.

David Scherman Weegee was

Studs Terkel -- The absurdity, the rage in other instances, compassion and violence. All there, isn't it?

David Scherman And freelancers like Weegee were better at that than almost anyone. He was superb at it.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking as we near the end of this hour and all we've done, really, with Dave Scherman as guide who edited and chose "The Best of Life", the photographs he thought best tells of the human condition and of a generation from 1936 to '72.

David Scherman Through '72.

Studs Terkel So how many years, so in those years

David Scherman -- Thirty-six years.

Studs Terkel In a way, this tells a story of where we were, where we are, and not where we'll be, but in a way implies that there are possibilities. You know the old story, two possibilities.

David Scherman True. Well, as I say, as I say, Studs, the most gratifying aspect of the success of this book is the fact that it speaks it speaks to people's love of the of the human condition, it speaks it speaks of the fact that there is a great residual affection for "Life" magazine, of course. I mean, people I think were maybe a little bit guilty that it's been folding.

Studs Terkel Well, you just said something about affection, you implied something earlier about the possibilities of a revival, did you say?

David Scherman Well, you know as much about it as I do. But there are extremely strong rumors that "Life" may come back in some reincarnation or other, whether as a monthly or as a as a quarterly. I certainly am looking for it. I would love to, I would love to continue what I, what I started many years ago, my entire adult life has been spent here.

Studs Terkel And of course we're talking, aren't we, they were talking also of a new medium. You know, the medium that is the great sales commercial medium more than anything else, and that's television. That's, that is the

David Scherman That was a

Studs Terkel Aspect,

David Scherman That was a very, that was a very strong factor. It would be silly to deny that. The competition for the advertising dollar left us in an awkward position. But that's not the whole reason. I think a very serious thing that you should consider in the demise of "Life" is the fact that it got so expensive. I mean, the inflationary spiral caught us. We were sort of left to drift on a sea of future schlock, you know, in a way. We simply couldn't afford to, couldn't afford to

Studs Terkel continue. You know, we haven't talked, there's so much in your book, of just, just the page you've turned to, there are three faces, three works of Picasso, Georgia O'Keeffe and Walter

David Scherman Yeah, well, of course, secretly this is my favorite chapter in the book. They tried to keep me down on this, but I

Studs Terkel This is a chapter involving

David Scherman Involving

Studs Terkel Artists at

David Scherman Artists

Studs Terkel Creative

David Scherman And creative, creative spirits people. Papa Hemingway

Studs Terkel Perhaps describe the Picasso.

David Scherman There's a marvelous picture of Picasso that Gjon Mili took in the south of France. He asked, he asked Picasso. He got him into a dark room and he gave him a flashlight, and he asked him with the flashlight to draw a centaur with the with the flashlight. Gjon Mili opened up his camera on a tripod, and Picasso, looking straight at the camera at all times, took the flashlight and drew, very quickly, a centaur in -- With -- In light, in streaks of light. I talked to, I talked to Gjon about this picture the other day, and he said, "The remarkable thing about it is that Picasso never looked at the flashlight. He looked straight at the camera because he had in his mind a concept of a centaur and he drew that."

Studs Terkel But I'm curious, see, I know nothing about photography, what did Mili do? He caught light?

David Scherman He caught

Studs Terkel You know, he made the light

David Scherman He made the light of the flash, he made the light of the flashlight permanent into a streaky picture of a centaur and at the end of the thing, he took a stroboscopic instantaneous picture of Picasso himself, just to get him in the picture.

Studs Terkel And rarely has there been a face like that of Georgia O'Keeffe.

David Scherman It's a,

Studs Terkel it's The

David Scherman It's a lovely picture. It was, it was a cover on "Life" when we first ran it. We sort of brushed out the, we brushed out the cover logotype to use it in the book.

Studs Terkel And there's Walter Gropius

David Scherman doing And a lovely picture of Walter Gropius bathing out west on vacation, squirting, playfully squirting a squirt of water out of his fist. Gropius died shortly after that picture was taken, and I love the picture of Papa Hemingway kicking a beer can along the highway. Hemingway, Hemingway told the photographer John Bryson that this was the picture of himself that he liked better than any other picture that had ever been taken. He died, of course, two years after the picture was made, and Cecil Beaton took this lovely picture of Gertrude Stein and her alter ego, Alice B. Toklas, many, many years ago, and there's a picture of Papa Heming-- Not Papa Hemingway, of William Faulkner, standing in front of a cabin in Yoknapatawpha County in Oxford, Mississippi.

Studs Terkel So you have, then, a combination, just as the Silk photograph of Anne Frank in there, too. So you have really then, artists, celebrated people

David Scherman -- Artists

Studs Terkel Clout people

David Scherman Artists [unintelligible]

Studs Terkel And the anonymous.

David Scherman Gjon and the anonymous.

Studs Terkel And the anonymous. And As a result, a capturing of the human condition, and this is what you call photojournalism.

David Scherman That's what it is, yeah.

Studs Terkel Dave Scherman. Any other thoughts before we say goodbye for now concerning in this book "Best of Life".

David Scherman My only other thought is that we can continue photojournalism into the indefinite future. I think it's, I think, I think we want to contain something in our hands. Television is fine, but isn't it great to hold a picture in your hand and look at it for half an hour.

Studs Terkel There is a, just the one that Belfast shot, you said we could look at that for a half hour. That young girl in the hallway, comic yet terrified, and yet horror, and I guess you could look at something that like you could at a Goya, I suppose, too.

David Scherman Right, right. A good photograph can be looked at for a long time.

Studs Terkel And scores of them, hundreds of them, in "The Best of Life". It's available and Dave Scherman, the guy responsible, my guest and thank you very much for several reasons.

David Scherman Good to be here, Studs.