About the Photographs
If Shel Secunda’s name is recognizable, it’s possibly because his credit has often been seen beneath photographs of well known people. Shel’s pictures of celebrated individuals such as Meryl Streep, Muhammad Ali, Carol Burnett, Gene Kelly and Yogi Berra have appeared on the covers and in the pages of magazines, books and in advertisements. A short list of other of his notable subjects would include Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Dave Brubeck, Dick Cavett, Lena Horne, Mike Nichols, Richard Rodgers, Mickey Rooney, Joe Namath, Beverly Sills and Sting.
Shel’s art photography is in the permanent collection of the International Center of Photography in New York City.
The Paintings and Photography
Burleigh County, North Dakota from 1000 feet
About the Paintings
Shel's first airplane flight was the inspiration for his paintings. He was on his way to his freshman year at UCLA. Planes flew lower and slower back then and Shel was fascinated by the geometric forms he saw below. As a city boy, he had always imagined that all farms were laid out in neat squares or rectangles.
Years later, recalling the variety of shapes he had seen - circles, curves, triangles - he drew his impressions, restricting himself to geometric forms. The circular shape of his canvases was dictated by Shel’s memory of peering through the round windows found on the DC-4s and Lockheed Constellations that carried him from coast to coast.
The four canvases, now part of the permanent collection of The North Dakota Museum of Art, in Grand Forks, ND, are each six and a half feet in diameter. On loan from the museum, they are currently installed at the new Grand Forks International Airport.
(Please visit: www.gfkairport.com/2012/07/artwork to see the originals being hung.) The medium was acrylic paint mixed with modeling paste to build up texture. Shel then photographed the paintings, using extreme side lighting to cast shadows, creating the illusion of three dimensions in the prints shown here.
Giclee prints, in the size of your choice, are available for purchase.
Born in Brooklyn, raised in Washington Heights, Shel graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, attended UCLA and earned B.A. and M.A. degrees at NYU. After army service as a Signal Corps photographer in Germany and (very briefly) teaching in NYC high schools, he found employment as a press agent for Broadway shows. His boss, aware of Shel’s photo background, asked him to shoot the advertising and publicity stills for the shows represented by the office. The details of his subsequent career are revealed in the photos and text below.
Shel has been a guest artist and visiting lecturer at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, author and journalist, Victoria Secunda.
For those who might wish to see how an advertising illustration was created, back in the days before a reasonably intelligent five-year-old, versed in the use of Photoshop, could achieve the same result with a few clicks of a mouse, please visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv5y-xo-N9s . The video was televised as part of the series “World of Photography”, sometime in the late ‘70s.
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