The Digital Journalist
Remembering Eddie Adams
October 2004

by Alyssa Adams

The first time I met Eddie was at a party for David Cohen, one of the creators of "A Day in the Life" projects. Eddie was a photographer on the projects and I worked as a graphic designer at the firm that designed the books. Eddie asked me out in the elevator on the way down. Although when he told the story, I was the one who asked him out.

He asked me to a party at his loft on St. Patrick's Day. I showed up, one of the first guests. Nice loft, antique furniture, sparse, some camera equipment in the corner and some of his pictures on the wall. I looked around. No food, no drinks, and I was wondering, what kind of party was this? A few people trickled in and I met the girlfriend of one of his photographer friends and we said to Eddie, "Can we help you get ready for the party?" Well, this girlfriend and I ended up going to the grocery store and buying all the food, ice, soda, beer, and liquor for the party. We came back to the house, cooked corned beef and cabbage, mixed drinks, served the guests and at the end of the evening, loaded the dishwasher.

Eddie asked me out again. I was dubious. He said we would go out to eat. I came to the loft; we got our coats on and headed out the door. Eddie stopped and looked around. He didn't know which way to go to get to the restaurant. He took a guess and we headed off, but he couldn't find the restaurant. We settled for another restaurant and had mediocre food.

He asked me out a third time. This time we would go out of town to his place upstate. I was, again, dubious, but I was new to New York City and needed some fresh air and time away from a cramped apartment. So I headed over to his loft; we took a train to Westchester, where a friend kept Eddie's red convertible Mercedes in his garage. I was designated the driver. We got there late; it was dark, dusty and spider-webby. We went to sleep and woke up to a glorious day. We were at the farm and it looked very different back then. Well, soon after we were there, the phone rang; Eddie was being called away on assignment. He said he'd be back at the end of the day. I dusted, cleaned, cooked and chased a bat out of the house while he was gone. He didn't come back until 3:00 in the morning. He had gotten lost!

Everything was not adding up for me. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer — world traveler — Thirty years in the business — and this man didn't know east from west when he walked out his front door.

Alyssa and Eddie Adams

Photo by Dirck Halstead
I'm a slow learner. Over the next 20 years, I realized a couple of things. Eddie really enjoyed the company of other people and would always engage them in whatever his latest project was. His dreams were so big that he really needed the assistance of friends and family to make things happen.

People were fascinated by his experiences and part of his charm was that he opened his life to people and took the time to share that life. He was a great storyteller and, although his delivery wasn't perfect, and you weren't always sure where the punch line was, he told stories with such conviction and would throw in all so many side details — say, about duck hunting with Castro — that you were fascinated.

My time with Eddie was always full. He would always have enough projects going to keep five people busy. And now that I know what ADD (attention-deficit disorder) means, I am convinced that he and probably many other photographers are ADD. I was always employed full-time and was part wife, part mother to our son, August, part Workshop director, part studio manager, part photo assistant, part a million other things and part crazy.

Living with Eddie wasn't easy, but it was always interesting and always took me places I never thought I would go.

Today is Oct. 11th; Eddie left Sept. 19th for what he called his "last assignment." Well, he left me and a lot of other people in charge of a few unfinished assignments.

I was asked by Dirck Halstead to write something about Eddie that would give insight into his personal life, but right now I (and about 200 other people) are in the middle of BARNSTORM: The Eddie Adams Workshop XVII. I can tell you that he loved his son, August, more than anything else in the world and regarding all that personal stuff — I'll get back to Dirck and you all after awhile.

© Alyssa Adams