Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt / LIFE
Menemsha Harbor, 1969
Vineyard Times With Eisie
An Essay by William Marks

There he was, the world's renowned icon of photography, Alfred Eisenstaedt, sitting in the sun on a canvass director’s chair. The setting was the grass yard next to a Menemsha Inn cottage named “Pilot House”.  As I exited my car and started walking across the yard, I saw Eisie’s head move slightly as his knowing eyes looked me over. He was wearing a pair of shorts; a sun-bleached short-sleeved blue cotton shirt; a Yankees baseball cap with “NY” on the front, and a pair of dark sunglasses. The time was mid-August, and Eisie’s face, arms and legs were deeply tanned. As time went by, I was to learn how Eisie liked sporting a tan, especially on his face. He once commented, “My face is always tan, just like that famous actor, George Hamilton.”  

My purpose for meeting with Eisie was to interview and photograph him for a Martha’s Vineyard Magazine exclusive. The story was to focus on his upcoming book and the first-ever commercial sale of his photographs. Eisie wasted no time in sizing me up, “How long have you worked for the magazine?” he asked. “I am the magazine’s founding publisher and editor,” I answered. “Oh,” said Eisie, then after a brief pause, “it is a beautiful magazine, I liked reading the story Walter Cronkite wrote a few years ago.”  

Eisie pointed to a nearby cushioned chaise, “make yourself comfortable,” he said, I’ll have Lulu bring us something to drink. Do you like iced tea?” The way Eisie orchestrated the moment made me feel as though he was creating a photographic setting. After meeting Eisie’s lovely sister-in-law, Lulu, Eisie and I sat in the Vineyard’s hot August sun and chatted away. He told me about his wife Kathy, who died from cancer in 1972, and with whom he shared twenty-two Vineyard summers. He told of how thankful and blessed he was that Kathy’s sister, Lulu, now helped him to organize his home and travel plans. “Without Kathy and Lulu, I would have been dead long ago,” Eisie said.  It wasn’t too long before I was shirt less and sitting there in my khaki shorts and rope sandals; listening to Eisie’s fascinating stories of life, photography and travel. Without doubt, Eisie was one of the most traveled people I had ever met.  In the silent moments between words spanning a range of subjects, there were soft whisperings from a southwesterly breeze floating uphill off the visibly distant waters of Vineyard Sound. 

Continued on next page.
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