In his circle of friends and co-workers, Eisie was known for his blunt honesty. If you offended him or did something that he didn’t like, he would tell you so. “It bothers some people when I tell them what I think,” said Eisie one day, “but life is too short for me to pretend when someone is being rude or thoughtless. So, I tell them. Sometimes people get offended and don’t talk to me. I can’t help that.”
Over the ten years of knowing Eisie, he would occasionally tell me things about myself that bothered him. One thing that bothered Eisie the most was my occasional lack of punctuality. To Eisie, being on time was of great importance. Eventually, I made an effort to be as punctual as possible when meeting Eisie. After a while, I followed the example of Menemsha Inn owner, Nancy Steeves, and began expressing some of the things Eisie did that bothered me. The fact that our emotional corners softened and our friendship was secure, provided me with one of the greatest friendships of my adult life. With Eisie and Lulu I could be myself and always feel their love and acceptance.
The great loves of Eisie were his family, close friends and his art. Following these, was his love of music. In his youth, Eisie learned to play piano. “My parent’s paid for me to take piano lessons when I was very young,” he says, “but I never developed into a virtuoso. Who knows, maybe having nimble fingers helped me to take good pictures. I have photographed many famous musicians.” One of Eisie’s favorite past times was to sit with headphones on and listen to classical music. When moving from Queens to Manhattan, Eisie gave away over one thousand records from his collection. To replace his record collection, Eisie made tape recordings of his favorite musicians. After his death, Lulu gave me Eisie’s tape collection which carry his scratchy writings for identification. Listening to the music Eisie recorded has, to this day, added special enjoyment to my life. Besides the treasure of Eisie’s music, I am blessed to have several portraits of myself that Eisie gave to me over the years. Eisie also gifted me several signed pictures (including V-J Day); some old camera bags; tripods; an old Leica camera, as well as other photographic equipment. Certainly, I was most flattered. In Lulu’s words, “William, the way Eisie sometimes talks about you, its is like hearing a father talk about his son.”
Eisie took the last photographs of his career in August 1993. These were pictures of the Clinton family in the private courtyard setting at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury. Owned by Eisie’s two friends, Bruce Blackwell and Brandon Mayhew Wright, the Granary Gallery sold Eisie’s pictures through a special arrangement with Time-Life. Eisie chose the courtyard for two reasons - he wanted the First Family to see his photographs and, he wanted some versatility in improvising with ambient light.
A few days leading up to the shoot, Eisie asked me to drive him to the gallery so he could get a feel for locations. We spent most of the day taking light readings in different places of the courtyard and marking the floor with pieces of tape. Depending on the time of day, Eisie had predetermined several locations for placing chairs. Eisie would have me stand and sit in various places, and he would then take his readings. At this stage of his life, Eisie was in great pain with crippling arthritis. Any movement brought pain. Every shuffling footstep came at a price. Even at age 94, Eisie had his wits about him. Thinking ahead, he fastidiously planned the entire First Family shoot to work around his physical limitations. By the time we finished working out the details of the upcoming shoot, Eisie was exhausted.
During the days prior to the shoot, Eisie
prepped me for my part, “William, I will need you to change my camera lens
for me while photographing the President. My hands are too stiff to do
that any more. Pay attention, I will raise my finger to signal you when
I need you. Also, this is most important, you will be the only photographer
who will record this event. Take as many photographs as you can. Especially
try to get pictures with Lulu in them, she likes Mrs. Clinton and it would
be nice to get a picture of the two of them together. Now, there is one
more thing you must not forget to do. You must not forget to ask the President
if it is okay for you to take a picture of me with the President. This
is something I cannot ask. You must ask.” Each day leading up to
the shoot, Eisie would remind me about asking the President’s permission
to photo the two of them together.
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