George Tice: Seeing Beyond the Moment
Photographer George Tice works in the urban tradition of artists such as Edward Hopper and Walker Evans. From his studio in New Jersey, Tice shares his life and work spanning six decades and 18 book projects. This film includes interviews with Tice at the locales of some of his most famous images, including “Petit’s Mobil Station” and “Oak Tree,” shows new work.
- Thank God, I remember this.
When I first got this camera,
I was afraid to take verticals 'cause I have vignette.
32, is this correct.
And here we go.
I always look at the subject when I'm taking it.
I want to remember it.
In 1967, I bought an 8x10 view camera,
and began this portrait of New Jersey.
The larger negatives yielded 12 times the picture area,
and rendered a complexity of detail
that one could study but never memorize.
I like the idea of seeing my picture
framed on the ground glass.
Even though it was upside down.
But the principal reason for my choice of such a camera
was the tilting back feature.
It allowed me to keep the vertical lines of architecture
parallel to the size of the film.
Photography and driving went hand-in-hand.
I would decide to go one off some place
and once there, I'd continue driving around
until I chance upon something that engaged my interest,
something I could take a picture of
that would add to my purpose at hand
were to the unity of my larger body of work.
Whenever that happened, I'd stopped the car,
get out and walked around.
I would ask myself, do I really want to take this picture?
If so, I'd have to get the equipment out of the trunk
and set it up, and from where do I want to take it.
My experience when driving with most passengers,
and coming upon something worth looking at
was that they seldom understood my excitement
where the potential of what I was pointing out
until I made a photograph of it.
It takes the passage of time
before an image of the common place subject
can be assessed.
The great difficulty of what I attempt to seeing
beyond the moment.
The everyday-ness of life gets in the way of the eternal.
I contemplate how this photograph
will be seen in the future,
when the subject matter no longer endures.
Taking a picture is indeed stopping the world.
If asked what I have learnt since undertaking this work
over 30 years ago, I would offer a prophecy in response.
All things are subject to change.
In my lifelong quest looking for beauty,
I managed to find it in places
that some would think the most unlikely.
The fact I found it almost everywhere I looked.
I remember another maxim my father wrote
in my autograph book.
Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
- I think I first heard of George maybe 1982,
maybe a little earlier.
It was an article in a photo magazine
in the Ansel Adams's interview.
They asked him who his favorite photographers were
and one of the few he mentioned was George Tice.
In 1989, I was working at Maine Photographic,
and I bought Car For Sale.
I didn't really know why I bought the picture.
I just like the way it was structured.
I like what I call the feng shui of it.
It had, everything was organized, it was cool.
It had like a '56 Chevy in the picture.
Again I love it.
The picture's amazing to me because I think
most people would have driven right by this picture.
I think in my estimation, it is probably perhaps
the greatest, one of the greatest photographs
ever taken of the second half of the 20th century.
Because it shows the American dream unrealized,
and sort of that paradigm shift in America,
where things started to go.
Factories were closing and such,
and he shot that in Paterson, New Jersey in Cliff Street.
If you were to go to that location now,
you will never find a spot that's going.
But you have a car that's in the driveway.
Most probably a prized possession of a man,
and he takes a bar of ivory soap and he writes two words.
He writes for sale.
It's known in collectors, a sense of angst,
sad that it's, they got the bare trees against the skies,
cold and gray, but it just says so much.
I think unless you've lived that life,
you wouldn't really, you would never see that picture
if you drove by.
You would just drive right by.
You wouldn't be in that neighborhood probably first of all.
I think a lot of academics missed that sort of thing.
They don't see some of this stuff
because they were fortunate enough not to have to live
in that world but George did.
I think by having done so,
he has enlarged our vision collectively.
- [Cashier] Thank you very much, good day, bye.
- [Customer] Thank you.
- [Customer] Thanks Ben.
- See with the 6 1/2 you go like this.
- [Peter] Oh yeah, right.
- I can probably shoot that way with this 8 1/2.
I'll try it, see if it--
- [Peter] Is that a gold dot?
- [Peter] Is that a gold dot?
- [Peter] No.
- Now this is, this is another one at stake.
All I do, New Jersey Urban Landscapes,
and they're doing a film of me.
Okay, here we go.
(slow nostalgic music)
Well, it was just me and my mother
until I was late 11.
My father was just someone I would visit.
(slow nostalgic music)
She was peddling
Irish linen, made in Cincinnati,
which she'd cut up into a bulk of it
into toy lace and bed spreads.
She would sell them door to door.
Then years later, she was selling pocket books door to door.
Let's say she did this practically her whole life.
One time she was mugged in Newark,
and then she gave it up.
She might have been 65 years old by then.
Work ethic was there from the beginning.
I mean I begin peddling the craig paper roses at about six
until I was 16 so I was self-supporting.
As a kid, I didn't want to ask my stepfather for money
so I bought all my own clothes, I go out on Saturdays
during school, I take a bus with two shopping bags
with the craig paper roses which get crushed very easily.
Had to be very careful, and then I had a newspaper
over the top of the bags so people didn't know
what I had in the bag.
My grandmother said to me, we were out peddling,
I guess in New York, and we went to the Bow Orient.
I remember my grandmother saying,
"You don't want to end up here George."
So these were the alcoholics.
I got the pony, first thing I did was
went over the bow-ry.
I only made like two trips
so all those pictures came from
maybe 2 1/2 rolls of film.
- [Peter] I think there's something you're strongest for
'cause I was looking at, it's powerful.
- Well, it's held up for me for almost 56 years
but I was getting in trouble in school
mostly because of smoking or I don't know,
cutting up in class, and they sent into the boys' room.
Then the teacher would come in the boys' room,
he'd smell the smoke and send me down
to principal's office.
Then the principal at the Carteret High School
got me in his office so and then says,
"What do you really like to do?"
I said, well I like photography.
I'd like to be a photographer.
He said, "You know they have a Camera Club
"that meets in back of Todt's Photo Shop in town.
"You know, that might be good for you."
So I went and joined the Camera Club
but I was the only boy.
They were all men.
I had to Kodak Pony, the $29.95 camera.
They had Leicas and Linhofs.
They were all men, there was no women in the club.
- And he shows something, he's got this little dinky camera.
By then, I had a Rolleiflex.
I was hot stuff to be carrying a Rolleiflex.
I thought, well what's this kid on to with that camera.
I brought some prints in.
As I'm talking, I'm getting the goosebumps
because this kid's stuff was so good,
I couldn't believe it.
I talked to George about one of the first pictures
I saw of his.
It was kind of an ordinary picture.
The scene was ordinary.
It was like some store front, some lamp post.
Maybe I don't want to get in there.
I can't really even but the way it looked,
it just caught your attention.
It captured your imagination.
It was an ordinary scene but yet it drew you in.
There was something about that photograph.
Something the way it looked.
I thought to myself, this kid's good.
We had this monthly black and white print competitions.
I began printing with a $10 Sparta slide projector.
It would get so goddamn hot, it would buckle a lot.
The negatives but I was printing horizontally
in the trailer with the slide projector,
with a cardboard diaphragm
'cause the light would be so intense,
you need a shutter speed almost like a camera.
- When my father was young, his dad took
a lot of pictures of him growing up.
He made these wonderful photo albums
that my father would look at,
study, look at, study.
I think when he got the bug of photography at 14,
and he fell in love with it, he was doing it to get
his father's attention and affection,
and to really show him that I could be somebody.
When he started doing that, he just took off with it,
and that's when he became a perfectionist.
You know it just kept getting better,
and better, and better.
- I began winning the awards, and it turned out at the end
of the year, I came in second place in cumulative score.
So I got the highest, second highest cumulative scores.
They awarded me a trophy, and the trophy was a warrior
holding up, it's in my curio cabinet,
holding a flame, my name was engraved on it.
It was the first thing that I ever really succeeded in doing
what I was good at.
When they gave me that trophy and I said,
I mean that was the linchpin.
I'm gonna be a photographer, and I never looked back.
Well, I was going to vocational high school.
I was in 10th grade, and studied commercial photography
so I was only there about six months.
I went looking for a job for the whole summer,
and it was until the end of the summer
that I got a job as a dark room assistant
for a studio in Newark.
I just got the job so I never went back to school.
I made a mistake putting the wrong,
mixing chemicals, putting the wrong cap on the wrong jar,
and the printer freaked out.
Started yelling, and I started crying.
I left there.
If I joined the Navy, I wanted to join the Navy
so I wouldn't get drafted in the Army.
I really like the uniform
but if I joined, if you joined the Navy
when you were 17, you got out one day before you're 21.
So you can do it when you just turn 17
or you could do it before you turn 18
so it was called the kiddy cruise.
So I was in three years and five months.
Then in the Navy, they would not send me
to photography school because I was not
a high school graduate but I had a party one,
and there was a waiting list of about 100 people
who wanted the job in the photo lab.
Then he had a party one night for offices and enlisted men,
and I had a few beers.
I went up and talked to this officer.
I said, I'm really in the wrong department
I said, I'm really a photographer.
So I caught his ear but I didn't know it at the time
but the next morning, I had orders
report to photo lab, Naval Air Station
for on-the-job training.
So it's this one guy, right ahead of these hundred people
who were waiting in line.
Right before I was to get this job,
the ship was at sea.
We were about 300 miles out at sea.
There was an explosion in the hangar bay.
I grabbed the Speed Graphic,
and I ran up to the flight deck.
The men were pushing burning helicopters out of water.
That picture went to the wire services
to the front pages of newspapers all over the world.
Steichen saw it, and he contacted the Navy.
Steichen being a retired, well he retired as US Admiral,
but he was called a captain.
He contacted the Navy.
They would like to have a print of this for the
Museum of Modern Arts collection.
I said shit, I must be in earnest.
From 1960 to 1970, I worked as a Navy photographer
which I thought would be temporary
as a home portrait photographer, going to people's homes,
photographing their children individually, family groups.
I used to do about 10 sittings a day.
We would do a roll of 120,
and then 10 stereo slides.
After five years, I thought I couldn't do this anymore.
I packed the family up, abandoned the
house that we bought.
I had $700 and a secret savings account.
We headed out to California with three kids in the car,
and the car was just packed.
Took us about a week to get to California.
I went looking for a job there.
The only job I was able to find was doing home portraits.
The difference was in New Jersey,
I was paid $3.25 for a sitting.
In California, they paid $1.50.
So I had to do twice as many sittings.
So we stayed in California about six months
and my wife got homesick.
We came back to New Jersey.
Then I went into business myself.
Going door to door, selling a coupon
for $4.98 for an 8x10 natural color portrait.
I did pretty good with that.
So it gave me half the time to do my personal photography,
which is more meaningful to me,
and the portraits were just a way of earning a living.
I'm in a job, what I was looking for,
was artist photographer.
I kept buying the Sunday papers,
when I was doing home portraits.
I looked into one ad section, looked under photography,
there'd be a couple of things but nothing.
Nothing that would give me great satisfaction.
Even in portraits if I was working for a very successful
portrait studio, that might have been sufficient.
But I think you always have to have your personal work,
and make it.
You gotta to know how to create your own occupation.
We moved to Lancaster early '50s, early '50s.
That exposed me to the Amish.
They were a culture like the travelers were a culture.
They're fascinating to me.
So the trailer camp we lived in,
on one side, it had an Amish farm,
and on the other side, it had Mennonite School.
I used to wait for the school bus,
and watched the horse and buggies go by.
So that's stuck in my mind.
So when I got out of the Navy,
and wanted to begin work on my own,
that's the first thing I chose was to do a book
on the Amish and Mennonites
of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,
which I worked on over a period of nine years,
which was a weekend here, a week's occasion there.
- The print quality of the book was important
to him in general.
Books like Fields of Peace, I think,
were just absolutely extraordinarily simply designed,
and beautifully printed.
- I think particularly in his views of the Amish,
he does have a romantic sensibility
because of course, they're living very much of
a 19th century existence.
So his going and documenting are sort of throwback
to an earlier time, I think does provide a romantic,
and certainly a nostalgic image of America.
- There's just something about those pictures.
Just that kind of the beauty of the images,
the simplicity of the images
just captivated me and interested me.
(slow nostalgic music)
- Hello there.
- [Peter] You're happy with that?
- [Peter] So what exactly are you evaluating
when you're looking at this?
We'll see where I get the noon exposure for black
that reveals a high light detail.
Except that black has to be dodged a little.
It's very sal-nye
that I ever dodged but this really do.
All these enlarging lens work different stuff down.
Going to the right, one, two, three,
and the filter is in place.
All right, if we can.
I think I tried that 35.
Then if it needs a little more richness,
I'll soak 'em the next day,
and then print through one to 12.
Just the toner.
Well, I mean, you check your ideal contrast changes.
Our time, I look at some prints.
Done a nearly six days to live up to contrast in me.
But I know, just from experience,
this print is gonna be a little lighter than that print.
And probably if this is, let's see if this is light.
Let's see if this is lighter, yeah.
But more open.
- [Peter] That fifth task helped.
- I say that's it.
I think I'll just do another one just like this.
- [Peter] What did you remember most about growing up?
- Mostly him in the dark room.
He was always in the dark room.
The door was shut, you couldn't open it.
You had to knock, wait, wait, wait, wait.
A lot of times, he worked 80 hours a week.
Then he would wake us up in the middle of the night,
like two, three in the morning in order to say hi.
My mother would be, "Don't wake the kids up."
He just wanted to see us.
Yes, we were young, and it was really hot.
It's about 100 degrees.
We picked that disgraced bartender picnic,
and we always had picnics growing up.
We'd run around.
Back then you had no shirts on,
and the girls and boys, they looked the same.
They mistake us all the time for boys in the picture.
We had to sit there for quite some time.
He got the New York Times where he wanted it,
and my sister was off the blanket.
She wasn't too crazy about that
because we were all nice and cozy on the blanket.
All we wanted to do is have to finish it.
We finally did and we got to run around,
playing, go crazy.
Well, he was always working.
So even pleasure was working.
We went on a lot of family trips
so we'd all get in a car,
and we would just travel to places.
Pennsylvania for a filter piece,
when he was working on filter piece.
So we always go together.
It was crazy because sometimes he would sleep in the car.
Sometimes, we'd have six of us.
I mean seven of us, my brother.
We all sleep in the car overnight.
We thought it was the best thing.
- I must say.
- All right, let me in.
- [Peter] The sky might go a lot.
You got a car coming, you've got a couple of cars
coming this way.
- [George] Can't you tell.
- [Peter] All right, go ahead.
- [George] Stop.
- [Peter] See more cars coming.
Guy taking a left turn.
- [George] Stop.
- George was not only a photographer,
and a printmaker, and a craftsman.
He was also an archaeologist and a sociologist.
No one thought about photographing Paterson, New Jersey.
- He's able not only to photograph the buildings,
the people but also the natural site,
which I think has inspired him greatly.
But he's been almost encyclopedic in the way
that he's documented that particular city.
- There's a city in New Jersey that's had a persistent
attraction for artists and poets.
It's Paterson, the town is still attracting attention,
and people who want to interpret it.
One of the latest is a young photographer, George Tice.
- I think that the Passaic River is symbolic
for the whole city of Paterson.
The falls are still beautiful.
Yet the water is the most highly polluted water
in the country.
- Yeah, I thought well, it had these great natural areas.
The falls, the river, the mountain,
and just being in a valley.
I like that was all this contained.
Got me at the one man show at the metropolitan.
Prior to that it was shown
at the New Jersey Historical Society Museum.
They won the Grand Prix at Arnold's
as the best photography book of the year.
If it's not the most important work I've done,
it's right up there.
I can work this town and do nothing else
the rest of my life.
Opened the door, came out, and just looked at us.
I said, can you hold it a minute.
My shutter speed was quite slow.
The first one, there's a little blur in her face.
The second one, I got it, which ended up
on the cover of Paterson II.
(slow nostalgic music)
- Sir, you're sure it's 1969?
- [Peter] 67.
- Yeah, okay.
Let's see how that go.
- Burned face yeah.
- Put his foot on the other side.
Check on that, 16.
- [Peter] There you go.
- George came for the workshop by then
because that's where he needed to be,
and that's where we needed to have somebody like him.
I can't remember who first suggested that George come
but I know at the time, he was teaching
a master printing class at the new school in New York.
I think somebody suggested to us that he'd be perfect
to come up and teach at the workshop.
So we invited him up.
He knew Maine already 'cause he'd already photographed,
he'd already released Seacoast Maine.
So he knew Maine, and this was a good opportunity
for him to get up here, and repay his way.
- I think workshops are really sprawling up
with this interest in photography
when they were being shown in museums and galleries.
It was hard for me to teach somebody to photograph.
I could look at the ground glass,
and suggested, if they were on a tripod,
suggest how they might improve the composition.
I could take a meter reading,
and see if other exposing.
But I felt that I could only tell,
teach people how I do something.
- And you're sequestered with a group of 10,
15 other photographers, and one particular person
who's drawing you there, that's the master
who's teaching the class.
Now you'll learn a lot of tactical stuff,
and you make a lot of pictures.
Some of 'em are terrible.
But you'll learn a lot, and one other thing
I thought was always important is you got to know
somebody who is successful at doing what you love to do.
You'll learn from them about attitude,
about persistence, sticking to it, craftsmanship,
how long it took to do something.
To make a master print may take you 10 years
before you get to that level of mastery with the print
now sings to you.
- [Lady] No electricity so I have to.
I have to get it.
- [George] It was a brand new in 1969.
- Right there.
It wouldn't have felt as good.
- I have your first quarter 45.
- [Peter] Good.
- What time is it?
- [Peter] 5:05.
- Ten minutes.
- [Peter] That's good, it's about average.
- Hey, you could do a whole book today.
- My recollection is that I met George and Lee Witkin
at the same time Lee was starting his gallery.
The first version of his gallery in Manhattan.
- [Narrator] But he credits Lee Witkin of the Witkin Gallery
in New York with freeing him to pursue another area
of photography, Urban Landscapes.
- In a lot of George's work on landscapes and the buildings,
there is that quality of light, the quality of loneliness,
that very American quality, not only in feeling but design.
- Lee was at the gallery, and George had really
been instrumental in getting Lee involved in photography
and educating him about photography,
and encouraging him to start a gallery in New York,
which is a very daring thing to do in 1960.
It was late '68, early '69.
- There was a sea change there.
I was helping Witkin.
He wasn't a photographer.
He actually was a writer for a construction magazine
but he was, he learned very, very quickly
and became an expert to history of photography,
and who's who of photography.
But I was his first show in 1969.
He was selling enough prints that I could,
I could stop the commercial work,
and just fall back on the print sales.
They started off at $25 and gradually went up.
- AIPAD's the world's series of photography.
It's the best dealers in the world
that specialize in photography.
It's not contemporary photography.
It's not vintage photography, it's everything.
But it's the best of everything.
- He used to come here for over 20 years.
He is presenting his book, American Beauty,
at Nailya Alexander Gallery.
- What is it about the paper?
- The fine sheets.
- Probably, 20, 25 years.
I fell in love with his work
when I started to collect.
When I opened my first gallery,
George was one of my first exhibitions.
I'm based in Santa Monica.
So I'm an Englishman but I like George
'cause he helps me explain America to me.
He's the quintessential American chronicler.
Hey what do I know about a white castle?
We didn't have those growing up in London.
- [Visitor] Who's doing the printing?
- [George] Salto and Ulbeek, Belgium.
- [Visitor] Belgium, yeah.
- [George] Let's line them back here.
- I've always been very touched
by the Artie Van Blarcum project.
- I read the book Death of a Salesman.
That, I thought was a masterpiece.
That had formed my vision when I did Artie Van Blarcum.
Artie Van Blarcum was like really low man.
I was in Vailsburg Camera Club.
Artie was a member of Tri-County Camera Club.
So I contacted Artie.
I'd like to do a book about him.
He said, how much is it going to cost me?
We were sitting in a diner.
I told him, it wasn't going to cost him
but I would be photographing him at home,
at work, with him out photographing.
Kind of like what you're doing with me.
All his pictures were cliches of camera clubs.
Cute dogs, a lot of puppies.
All the spots that the other camera people went,
"There's a good picture there."
He would go to, I mean, nothing was really
an original idea but I like his prints
because they were so sloppy.
His retouching, he would painting seagulls.
He would take oil painting that clouds.
So his hands were all over them.
The crew really, really like him,
and gave him a lot of attention.
- There's something about that project
that seems to me to be very,
on a certain way, autobiographical.
Sort of there but for the grace of God, go aye.
Without any sarcasm, just the kind of a very sweet
touching attention to a camera club photographer.
Allowed the college educated photographers
would of his generation, would have sneered on some level.
Looked down on the camera club folks
as this kind of throwback to an earlier generation
photography and the kind of vestigal thing,
whereas George saw them as his sources of knowledge.
- I was at the Witkin Gallery at an opening,
and Lee Witkin told me that
Arthur Miller and his wife Inge Morath were coming.
He smacked himself in the head.
He said, "You're George Tice."
He smacked himself in the head again.
He said, "I loved your book."
That was like God saying that to me.
Other books, Ansel Adams wrote back
in a very complimentary way about Fields of Peace,
and that was his wife's favorite,
one of his wife's favorite books, Virginia.
Then I sent them a second book, Artie Van Blarcum,
and he sent me this letter that depressed me.
He didn't think Artie was an interesting guy.
He didn't think this is what I should be doing.
I know in time, he'll do this and that.
But it really bummed me out.
So I have the two letters,
that the one with the applause for Fields of Peace,
and then the Artie Van Blarcum.
He didn't think that was my calling.
- I knew no one else's father was having gallery openings.
I saw how people respond to him.
That's when I realized that my father was famous.
- I have known George Tice for a long time.
Admired him as a photographer and known his history
with connections to other photographers.
A while ago, we had clans that were interested in Steichen,
and knowing George's relationshp
with Edward Steichen
as his printer for a long time,
I contacted George and went up to see him at his house
in New Jersey, where he surprised me
by pulling out a big box of prints that he had made
for Edward Steichen's retrospective
at the Whitney in 2000.
Then George started sending me unseen photographs of his,
and I said that would make a great accompanying show.
So the room that we are in now
has a group of 12 photographs
which were called Seldom Seen.
They are with the exception of one picture
Seldom Seen George Tice pictures.
The fact that we can come up with 12 pictures
that are this great by George Tice,
I think shows the depth of George.
That was really the point of the show,
and also the pleasure of the show
was in linking these two photographers together publicly,
where their photographs have not really been shown
in this way but there was a friendship.
There was a more than legitimate association,
and that people could appreciate George's work
at the same level of mastery
that Edward Steichen's work is being seen.
- In my mind, what makes a great photo book
is great pictures but it's a lot more than that.
It's gotta be a whole lot of great pictures
to end up with a book.
- Because he's not distracted either by constant travel
to events all around the world.
Because he stays in one place pretty much,
and because he is not so involved
in all of these other aspects of professional activity
that a lot of people do get involved in conferences,
and this and that.
He's got a lot of time to spend on his work.
I think that's a choice that he's made.
It's also his personality
but I think that's a choice that he's made.
That's where he's put his focus,
and therefore he does build projects,
and conceives of his work, interestingly as projects,
as book-length projects.
- One of the things he told me was
that books were his major focus.
Ernst Haas said the same thing.
My pictures are meant to be seen in books.
- Always in book, always in book.
Some were just series, tree series, ice series,
aquatic plant series.
But mostly a book, and mostly about place.
I became enthralled with Lincoln,
just how intelligent he was,
how wise he was, how he was self-educated.
I became a great admirer of Lincoln.
In one day, I was coming out of the Newark Museum.
Across the street, there was the Lincoln Motel,
and Abe's Disco.
I said, well this is it.
If there's this kind of thing are around the country
but there wasn't that kind of thing all around the country.
I think there were more things that used Lincoln
as a namesake earlier when there was still people alive
who were living during his lifetime.
Oh that was another retrospective.
Godine contacted me and practically begged me
to do a book for him.
He wanted me on his book list.
He wanted to, at first, he wanted to republish Paterson
or Urban Landscapes.
I told him no, I wasn't interested in that.
I wanted to do a retrospective.
This was in '82.
So the previous one covered from '53 to '73.
That was seven years later, I had a lot more work.
We published Urban Romantic,
which title came from a review
that was titled the Urban Romanticist.
I said to Godine how's that for a title?
He said, "Well, nobody will be able to pronounce
"Urban Romanticist, how about Urban Romantic?"
That became it's title.
- Urban Romantic, I think for me was probably
the most important book
and the book, you would sit and study this a whole lot.
I will sit and study a lot,
the sequencing of the book.
Print in the book, the design and the photographs.
Individual prints, almost all of them can stand
on their own but the sequencing and how they play off
of each other in a book form,
I think adds a lot to your knowledge of the work.
Just the amount of work
you would do for a book like Lincoln,
the amount of travel and effort that was made
to make a book like that is quite extraordinary.
Yeah, there were benches out in front of the bookstore,
and he would sit on the benches quite a bit.
Yeah, he'd be smoking some.
But he, all of a sudden, a lot of people would
kind of figure out that it was George Tice,
and then kind of word would spread,
and then there'd be a lot of people there,
and he'd be signing books to a lot of different people,
which he seemed kind of very happy to do.
When a book is, extraordinary book is kind of a rare thing.
Even though there's a lot of science
behind printing and publishing a photo book,
there's a lot of art to it as well.
- I think that D match came up a little light.
- Peter was pushing some weight into the shadows,
and trying to stoke all the detail out
in the right and the left side there.
- Okay, so I know there isn't much detail in here.
Into negative, there's not much out of detail there.
I'd like to keep that but we can't have their cars.
- [Man In Yellow] That's excellent.
- So this is the final?
- [Editor] Yes, that's the final.
- [Man In Yellow] I think we're ready for press.
- [Print Operator] You guys wanna view?
- [George] Yeah.
- Exact, pushed back a little bit.
You can see here this is the same,
just pushed back from that.
Just look at half the stock panel.
- Well, I first saw the oak tree
on the garden state park while heading north.
Although I couldn't see the whole tree,
even from the slow lane, I see the top of the tree.
I think, once I pulled the car over,
and actually looked over the sign, got a look at it.
Then I was planning of autographing it.
It was in May, and the leaves were just starting to sprout.
I'm taking in bright sunlight but it was,
it was like two contrasted look at.
I waited for the sun to set,
and it was still bright enough.
I think I did a one second exposure.
There's a little, a little movement,
and some of the leaves blowing softly.
Dwelt to film, made a print,
thought I had great picture.
I made it 16x20
but I didn't have a good quality enlarging lens
so it's not as sharp as later printings
but I took it to the Museum of Modern Art,
and they bought it on the spot.
Bought it on the spot.
Then I was surprised I came to the Museum of Modern Art
one day to Museum of Modern Arts back.
So we're talking 1970.
There it was hanging.
I was very pleased to, if I took a date to the
Museum of Modern Art, and I see my picture,
that was pretty good.
I don't know how many years it hung.
My guess is about, in memory about three years,
and became very famous.
It was reproduced all the time.
Sold a lot of prints of it.
Almost on a weekly basis.
I was printing this negative.
A lot of people say it looks like an etching.
All the detail, everywhere.
It's a funny thing 'cause I overexposed it,
and it was dense.
I took the chance on reducing it, bleaching it.
It worked out nicely 'cause it's just like cleared
the shadow areas to give me a good rich black
in the shadow areas.
Yeah, they gotten.
Took it 1974.
- No kidding, is this, are you George?
- Oh, nice to meet you.
Oh, so you were here in '74,
and this is the same
as it stood. - All right.
All right. - Isn't that amazing.
- This is my most famous photograph.
While I was
I was coming coming up the turnpike to visit a girlfriend
who lived in Cherry Hill.
This Lukoil was a mobile station.
Every time I passed it on the turnpike,
I think I'd like to get off,
and see what it looks like up close.
I did, and I got here.
It was a little later than this.
Not quite twilight.
Well enough that I can compose it on the ground glass.
So I started my exposure.
I think it was two minutes I was,
it was either two or three minutes,
I was trying to add up.
But the station was a lot busier then
so a car would pulled into the station every few minutes,
I'd have to stop the exposure.
Now it'd be easier to do with the countdown timer.
They didn't have countdown timers then.
But the exposure wasn't critical
'cause if you say two minutes or three minutes,
or three and a half minutes, it's not a big deal.
Well, when I left there, I thought I had a great picture.
But it was too contrasted to contact 8x10.
But the first prints I made were contrasted 8x10.
But then once I put it in the enlarger,
the cold light would soften the contrast,
and make it all fit.
So the only way it works as a contact print
is in platinum 'cause it's a good negative
for platinum printing.
The white castle preceded this,
and that became a famouse photograph.
Then this one kind of surpassed the white castle
in how people appreciated it.
- [Peter] Do you think this is
maybe perhaps your number one.
- It's number one.
I may never do a picture greater than this.
If I live another 50 years, I'll be 122,
and I don't think I'll make a greater picture than this.
(slow nostalgic music)