Another memory of Eisie’s is photographing the aftermath of hurricanes Carol and Edna in August and September of 1954 respectively. Due to the inconveniences of travel after Hurricane Carol, and because of Eisie’s interest in photographing the damage, he and Kathy extended their stay at Menemsha Inn. Ten days after Carol, news was heard of hurricane Edna making its way up the coast. Thinking two hurricanes could not strike the same place, Eisie and Kathy went about hosting a slide show of Eisie’s rain forest shots in Surinam and the Duke of Edinburgh’s trip to Canada. Low and behold, on the evening of the show, Hurricane Edna struck Menemsha. Eisie remembers standing atop the hill overlooking Menemsha and taking his camera in and out of his jacket to take pictures as Edna’s rains came and went. He was strong and sure-footed then, and was able to crouch and steady himself against the powerful 100 mile-per-hour winds as he recorded the event.
About 30 years later, when Hurricane Bob struck the island on August 19, 1991, it was a different story. Eisie was entering his fragile stage then, and when the electricity went out at Menemsha for about two weeks, things came a little testy. I did my best to bring Eisie and Lulu food, water, and an ice cooler for refrigerated items. Eisie blessed me many times afterwards for providing these little but vital conveniences. As soon as other parts of the island received power, I drove Eisie and Lulu to a friend’s home so they could shower and do a load of laundry. “You’re a good man,” Eisie would often say to me.
For over fifty years, Eisie photographed local Vineyard people such as Richard and Nancy Steeves, Tom and Midge Good, the Littlefields, Donald Poole, as well as personages such as David McCullough, Lillian Hellman, William Styron, Thomas Hart Benton, Thornton Wilder, Ruth Gordon, Walter Cronkite, James Reston, Mike Wallace, Art Buchwald, Katherine Graham, President Bill Clinton with family, and many others. I knew Eisie for the last ten years of his life, and since I always toted a camera in those days, I had the rare opportunity (with his permission) to photograph him photographing. Over those ten years, I snapped thousands of pictures of Eisie in almost every conceivable situation.
On Martha’s Vineyard, when Eisie photographed Kaye Graham at her West Tisbury home overlooking Lambert’s Cove Beach at Mohu, it turned out to be a playful late afternoon (a time chosen on purpose by Eisie). Kaye greeted us at the door and walked us around her house so Eisie could get a feel as to where he would photograph her. After checking a few locations with his hand held light meter, Eisie chose the outside deck overlooking Lambert’s Cove Beach and the ocean beyond. The slightly overcast sky produced a flat light, which was pleasing to Eisie, since he always used ambient light, either indoors or outdoors. Kaye was dressed leisurely in white slacks with a dark sweater. After a series of shots in various places on the deck, Eisie asked Kaye to cover her neck with a scarf or piece of jewelry. Kaye returned wearing a colored silk scarf. After a series of more photos, Eisie was still not satisfied. Kaye offered us some iced tea and light food.
After eating and talking for about a half
hour, Kaye asked me why I was photographing Eisie photographing her. I
explained to Kaye that I was a close friend and that I may use the pictures
in my magazine. With that, Kaye said that she would like to get in the
act and take some photos herself. So, after our break, the three of us
had fun photographing each other. Me shooting Eisie with Kaye, Kaye shooting
Eisie photographing me, Kaye shooting Eisie and me, Eisie shooting me and
Kaye. As luck would have it, the photograph Eisie would eventually select
for his book Eisenstaedt Martha’s Vineyard, was a candid shot of Kaye smiling
at Eisie as she sat on the deck railing holding her Canon camera at the
ready to snap another photograph. To this day, whenever I look at this
picture, I recall the serendipitous levity that produced such a vivacious
photograph of Kaye Graham. For a time, I guess, we let ourselves become
children at play. Of course, the grand finale’ of this scenario was when
we mailed each other our respective pictures so we could relive, in a fashion,
the fun time we shared.
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