Henri Dauman: Looking Up
Self-taught photographer Henri Dauman took the international photojournalism scene by storm with his cinematic images that redefined the methods of capturing historical icons. Leaving behind his past as an orphaned Holocaust survivor, Dauman created a new life for himself in New York City, where his timeless style quickly gained momentum amidst high society and celebrity culture.
[Henri] I always photograph
with my eyes wide open and with my heart.
I always look to show the personality
of the subject as they really are,
not the personality they project to the public,
and that's the key.
I was able to communicate
what was in my heart
and got to know very special people
that had a great deal of influence on our world.
I wish I had deeper conversation with Andy Warhol.
He was a very shy guy.
It's very difficult to overcome shyness.
[interviewer] Are you shy?
[Henri] Of course.
I think all actors, directors, photographers,
they go into the art field to express themselves
because it is difficult to speak what you feel.
It's very difficult thing.
[interviewer] You never told any of your subjects
about your story, did you, when you were photographing them?
[Henri] Of course not, no.
[interviewer] All right so,
why don't you tell us exactly who you are?
My name is Henri Dauman.
And I am a human being, a photographer.
Happen to be a photographer.
-[soft jazz music] -[phone ringing]
[Henri] Yes, hello.
[interviewer] Hello, how are you doing?
So the way the opening is, I mean,
doesn't look good for me.
I understand you wanted to get some humor out of it,
but this is not funny.
I mean, reducing myself, and you took me by surprise there
and make me look like an old guy to start with.
So, are you willing to re-shoot this?
This is Cary Grant.
We're re-shooting the info.
So what should I say, I'm French, maybe?
I'm a photographer, it's in my blood.
My name is Henri Dauman.
I'm a photographer?
No. I was motivated by... no.
Motivated by a quote.
[interviewer] Whenever you're ready.
That if you shoot 10 great photographs in your career,
you've really made it.
And that's what I tried to do.
[Henri] We need to polish this up.
The opening should be serious.
Maybe we can do it someplace. Where was it?
A small theater where there's a red curtain.
I would love a good red curtain.
[interviewer] That would be great.
Do you have a theater in mind?
[Henri] I think we can find something.
[interviewer] Okay. So yeah, all right, we'll talk soon.
-Yeah, okay. -All right.
[soft jazz music]
-Okay, to Grampy. -To Grampy.
-To Grampy. -To another 84 years.
-Oh my god, another 84 years. -Another 40.
♪ Happy birthday to you
♪ And many more
You ready? But you should be on the other side.
[man] Here, come stand over here.
-[woman claps] Wow, bravo. -Good job, Lily.
[Henri] That's a Polaroid?
[Lily] That's Cece's picture.
[Henri] Oh, this is nice.
The future Brigitte Bardot.
I wasn't aware of Henri's work really before I knew him,
but I knew that he had made some very important pictures,
such as Jackie walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.
I didn't know who the photographer was.
Because in the '50s and '60s, except in fashion,
you didn't care about who the photographer was.
I mean, you knew the name of the magazine,
Life Magazine, things like that.
But the photographer was quite
an anonymous character.
He had a few beautiful prints,
black and whites on the wall in his office,
in the apartment.
But I had no idea the depth of the assignments,
the people that he met along the way,
because those were all in the negatives hidden away.
There is a lot, a lot of box everywhere in this office.
Little office of Henri.
He say, "Okay, take this box", la la la,
and I put my hands inside.
I take the photography. Effectively, it is a reading.
But not the reading of somebody.
The reading of Jean Saber.
Another photo I see Elvis.
I see Marilyn Monroe. Maria Callas.
All the great peoples of the '50s and the '60s.
And I said to Henri, "But Henri, I don't understand.
You are photographer, okay.
But what sort of photographer you are?"
And he explained only in one word.
"I'm a journalist."
[reporter] Four decades as a feature photographer
for Life Magazine.
He's journeyed all over the world.
[reporter 2] He's been called the greatest
photo journalist of the 20th century.
-Isn't that you? -Looks like me.
Yeah, that's me.
It was a long time ago.
[reporter] He's documented some of its most historical events,
personalities and cultural changes in particular
within American society.
[Guy] I think his photos are more influential today
because many photographers did follow his technique and style.
[Guenola] He was the first to bring a glamorous aspect
within a newspaper.
That was news, especially at the time.
[Ted] It's really working with a true artist.
Somebody that knows what he wants.
Knows what he's doing. That's a true perfectionist.
Everything had to be done in an honest way
to give you an insight into the subject.
[Thierry] You almost feel a kind of joie de vivre
in these images.
The trust that was built is visible.
He knows how to talk to people.
He knows how to make them comfortable.
He got access.
[Guy] All these photos tell a story of culture in America.
But it wasn't considered art.
This is why we know the photos.
We didn't know the man called Henri Dauman.
[soft jazz music]
Well, I've been known to be a perfectionist.
I can be painful sometimes to work with,
and I have broken many an assistant.
If I was holding a light stand for an hour and a half,
I could whimper but not complain.
On the set, we worked as professionals.
He was always in charge.
There was only one director and that was Henri.
Fire the producer.
What, are we on golden time here?
Come on, let's get going. Come on, let's go.
[interviewer] I'm trying, I'm trying.
You need to have the light go further to the right.
That's very sideway.
Let me see when I look at the camera, what it look like?
[interviewer] Well the light's nice on your face
-from this angle. -[groans]
What do you think?
A little space above the lamp, I think would be good.
There we go.
You see that you were way too far there, right?
[interviewer] I mean, I like it.
You like it, okay.
[interviewer] But I'm not the expert.
You'll be the only one to like it.
What is this?
[Nicole] An assortment.
Who knows what we're gonna get in here.
[Henri] This is Marilyn Monroe out of a window
on Park Avenue in New York in 1959.
[Nicole] Did you make all of these prints yourself?
Most of them, yeah.
Jackie during the campaign.
A nice portrait there of Jack.
This was almost a Newsweek cover but didn't make it.
And this is the morning of the election
in Hyannis Port Armory in 1960.
He just learned that he had won the US presidential election.
This is in his house in Massachusetts.
November 9, 1960.
Here we go.
This is the kingdom of the contact sheets.
This is Elvis.
Easy to reach.
So the contact sheet are just notes.
Just like a writer takes written notes,
I take notes with my camera
and eventually it leads to the story.
We try to tell a story,
and we are storytellers.
You can see the imperfection.
You can see everything.
And then once in a while, you hit with the right one.
Picture of Elvis leaving
for Germany in 1958
to the great chagrin of his fans.
All the girls were crying over Elvis.
And then I rode the train
to return to Memphis
in 1960 to Graceland.
So I stayed with him several days.
When we got to Memphis,
it was interesting to know
what a simple guy he was.
Just like Marilyn Monroe.
He will look as young as he did in the photograph
and that's the image that people have of him.
These people never age.
We were telling and hopefully enlightening people
of what's out there in the arts,
and keeping people abreast
what's going on in our world.
And at the end of many years,
it all seemed that what I had photographed
turned out to be the history of our half century.
Unbeknownst to me.
He said to me,
"Ah, Marilyn Monroe?
Okay, I know.
Okay, I know I have a lot, a lot.
But if you photograph her,
do this photography exactly this."
It was two dancer, two black dancer.
He said, "If you do this sort of photography, okay,
we're going to New York
and we go to see exactly who is Henri Dauman."
When we came back, I said to Francois,
"We really have to do this".
[Henri] I was not sure of this idea
because those photographs were not shot
to be on the wall.
He don't believe one second
about this story of exhibition.
[Henri] I never considered it art.
They were done for magazine for commercial purposes.
For the first time, I saw my pictures
on the wall as an exhibit.
-[people chattering] -[soft jazz music]
And I was shocked to see
that people reacted to my photographs
in a way that I had not known before.
I get they could relate to all these events
which affected their lives,
and they were coming out of the show in tears.
I said, "My God, I'm a rock star".
Thanks for coming.
I thought my pictures were dead,
but they still live.
People still reacted to them.
When I sat at the opening night dinner,
we were a little more than 35 people around the table.
So I'm very proud to have ended up
with a large extended family.
This is what I have dreamt for
all my life before this.
And look straight into the lens of the camera.
More the film camera. The bottom one, yeah.
No, this one.
Yeah, look at this one.
Head down a little bit, yeah.
Come on, shoot the damn thing.
[Nicole] I knew about all the great success he has had
in his career and the people that he's met
and the icons that he's photographed.
But I didn't know any intimate details
about his survival and how he got
from point A to point B.
I recently went to Israel a few years ago
and I wanted to find out some more information about
my great grandfather who I knew had perished in Auschwitz.
And when I looked up my
great grandfather's last name, which is Dauman,
my grandfather's Holocaust testimony
arrived on the screen.
There is a slate of his name
and he pops on screen,
and I immediately was in hysterics.
I had no idea that it even existed.
I didn't know that he had done this.
I look at my grandfather
and he's so full of life,
and you would have no idea
that this had happened to him.
There was a shop around here.
My mother used to take me to have the soft ice cream.
After playing in the sandbox.
It's been over seven years since I've been back home.
I never thought I would return.
But it's coming full circle for me.
This was our bedroom.
We had a bed here like this.
There was no doorway.
And the living room was next door.
It was nothing like this.
When the war broke out, I was six years old.
So I remember very little
except for the fact that I came from a very loving family.
And it was a very pleasant childhood.
Many people thought they would not touch French Jews
and that we were safe.
And at some point,
I know my father received
something from city hall.
My mother had argued with him not to go.
But being a good citizen,
he thought nothing of it and he did go.
And that's when he was arrested, I guess.
And taken to a French camp called Pithiviers.
I remember we went to visit him,
and I also recollect that my mother
had asked my father to escape one more time.
Apparently, my father did not see fit to escape.
[interviewer] Are you angry with him?
No, I cannot be angry.
He didn't know better.
[interviewer] How did your mother and you live?
With great difficulty.
And I recall one morning,
the French police came knocking at our door.
I remember we saw them arrive.
My mother heard some noise.
Saw them coming in the courtyard.
Since we were not answering the door,
somebody must have told them we were inside the apartment.
We were lying on the floor of the kitchen.
My mother told me to be quiet.
And they tried to force the door open.
My mother went crawling on the floor
and closed down the second lock above the door.
I was getting hungry.
I was a young kid and I got hungry,
and I think my mother went to boil an egg
or something like that.
I guess the kitchen was here,
but it was a long hallway here.
I think they heard some noise.
And that's when they started to want
to break down the door.
I thought I was responsible for the doors
possibly being opened.
So they came through that doorway there.
A whole bunch of them,
and they came to the first floor.
We were in the dark and crawling on the floor.
Because of foresight of my mother,
we had installed two locks on the metal door.
The French police could not bring the door down.
I think the second lock that my mother
had installed was here.
It's just a lock that held it, that saved us.
Shows you a little thing can mean a lot in life.
They tried to bring the door down all morning,
and then like good Frenchmen,
they went away for lunch.
So while they went away for lunch,
we left and left everything behind in the apartment.
We went to the country.
Had we been arrested,
we probably wouldn't, I would not be here.
Because many people that were arrested that day
never came back.
These were something to write with.
And one was for my mother,
one was for me.
And it has a picture of the camp,
and it says, "Souvenir of Pithiviers Camp, 1941, 1942".
It has a picture of my father.
To me he writes, "Separated from you in captivity.
Always with you in my thoughts.
So, these are the last mementos that we have of him.
[interviewer] Why tell your story now?
Why did you never tell it before?
Well, I'm willing to talk about what happened to me
because I am on my third act in my life,
and my granddaughter Nicole asked me.
I would not have done it for anybody else.
And even then, now, I didn't realize
the work involved in this.
[Nicole] Thank you.
Wait a minute, let me focus and see if I see the house.
Oh, my God, don't recognize anything.
Okay, hold on, hold on.
Oh, my God, this is like looking for
a needle in a haystack.
[Brigitte] What drives him is the dream of a better life.
Which all emanated from his passion for photography.
It was a means of escape.
With that escape, he became the best
that he could be in that field.
And he wouldn't accept any less.
And I just think that is just
something that's inside of him.
Ingrained in him.
You can't tell.
We're hot, I mean, it's around here.
[Henri] I was hiding in Limay,
which is maybe 50 kilometers from Paris.
And my mother was living across the river.
It was very close, but I saw her very seldom
because we didn't want to be seen together
and people recognize us.
She left me with this couple.
My mother must've paid them
for them to take me on.
I took their name, which is Morin.
All of a sudden, I find myself with basically strangers,
even though I knew them.
I was too young to have any major recollection of them.
And I was there alone.
Every night, there were bombings.
I remember Mr. Morin building a shelter in the garden.
He had told me when the planes come,
just go in the shelter.
Which we did several times.
[interviewer] How'd you feel?
[Henri] Very scared.
And I even remember once,
I was walking in the garden.
I was holding a black cat named Pompom.
All of a sudden, the plane appears,
coming from the river.
They had just come from a bombing
of the factory across the Seine.
It flew very low, straight at our house,
at the garden where I was walking,
and it was spraying bullets.
The black cat got killed.
He got the bullets.
And I didn't get a scratch.
I still, to this day, don't know what happened.
Maybe it came from the side, I don't know.
But I survived.
The Germans were bombing a factory across the river
on a daily basis.
My mother did not get hurt
because the house that this French family lived in
was right near the cathedral,
and I guess they spared the cathedral.
Everything else was destroyed completely.
Which is amazing.
[interviewer] Henri, can you just tell me what's going on?
Yeah, he walked over from his house
to see if he could find us here
and tell us about what he just remembered.
Because it has the drainage pipe right next to the wall.
-Google Maps. -Google Maps.
[crew member] Yo, guys, put down the camera.
The shelter must've been here
because that is soft ground.
This is where I was walking with the cat.
And they came over this at an angle like this.
It made a loud noise as it was passing by.
[imitates machine gun]
The cat got hit, died instantly.
Not a scratch, I'm still here.
It's a strange feeling to be back so long
after the event
of one of my lives spent here.
But I told you before,
like a cat, I've got nine lives and a half.
And I've almost spent most of them.
[Odiana] We always go back to the past.
And I think this is where his nine lives come from.
Nine and a half?
[Henri] I've spent nine lives.
No, you haven't.
We still have a long way to go.
I've got to be here to continue the mission.
[interviewer] Sum up all the photographs you've taken
in a single word.
What a collection.
[interviewer] That's three words.
[interviewer] What do they all have in common?
-Huh, one word? -What do they, one word.
What do they all have in common?
Oh, the one thing that all these photographs
have in common is Henri Dauman.
[interviewer] That's two words.
-Huh? -That's two words.
Okay, I cannot use one word.
I did quite a bit of work with Jane Fonda.
For different magazines.
I said, "My God, you look so much like Vadim's women".
Brigitte Bardot, Kathleen Turner.
All the blonde women that he seduced and put in film.
And kiddingly I said to her,
"Listen, if you ever go to France,
he may spot you and you may meet him".
And she laughed, and not long thereafter,
Jane Fonda did meet Vadim in Paris,
and eventually, made a movie, "Barbarella",
and married Vadim and had a daughter with him.
So, my prediction apparently became true.
This is Brigitte Bardot in bed
on the set of Vie Privee, the Louis Malle film.
She plays a celebrity
who is being hounded by journalists and photographers.
So, I was drafted as a photographer.
I appeared in about four or five scenes.
So, how convenient,
because I was able to take photographs
even during the shooting of the film.
So, that was fun.
Kind of a reverse role.
[Brigitte] People would get their magazines
and the newspapers in their homes,
and in the privacy of their environment,
would see his photographs,
and he'd never know how they react.
But lo and behold, all of a sudden now,
he's there to see people reacting to his images,
and it's absolutely overwhelming to him.
[Nicole] For him to have the perseverance
to immigrate to America
and to create a career for himself
and not feel sorry for himself or stuck in the past,
that kind of work ethic
is just inspiring.
Because he could see the potential.
The theory of photography can be learned in an hour.
The elements of practicing it in a day.
What cannot be learned is that instant understanding
which puts you in touch with the model,
guides you to his habits, his ideas, and his character,
and enables you to produce an intimate portrait.
My guest's name is Henri Dauman.
What's this statement all about,
as far as you're concerned?
Well, I always get questions from my assistants.
How do you like this?
How do you like that?
And where do you place the light?
And I say, "You've gotta feel it".
I have no formula.
For each new assignment, it's a new ballgame.
I come in with my lights
and I try to create the mood
of what I feel the subject relates to.
At the moment, I try to get to know them in advance
and have a little chat before I shoot.
This helps me a great deal
to find what they're all about.
And you don't have too much time.
[Henri] We worked very quickly.
You have to.
Most of the time was not spent in shooting.
Often, I spent more time talking to the subject
than taking the photograph
because it's important to get to know each other.
To smell each other.
It's more important than the equipment.
The subject reacts to the person behind the camera.
I was dealing with the most intelligent,
creative people on this planet.
I haven't explored another planet yet.
My profession gave me the opportunity
to get to know these people.
The first time I photographed Andy Warhol
was a gallery on Madison Avenue.
I didn't know who this guy was.
He was very shy, white hair.
Kind of an albino kind of guy.
This is the so-called American supermarket.
They recreated literally a market
full of fruits, cheeses.
It was called pop art.
At the end of the shoot,
Andy offers me a can of Campbell's soup.
I was surprised.
I said, "Andy, I appreciate it but
I have many Campbell soups at home".
Like a fool, I didn't take the proposed gift.
So, you never know.
I had an assignment to do a story
on a typical young American girl.
I ended up with a young blonde.
Her name was Martha Kostyra.
And she married a gentleman named Stewart,
and she became Martha Stewart.
I did my number by lighting him
with my famous backlight.
I needed to move him a little bit that way.
I guided him by the nose and said,
"This way, Federico".
And he laughed.
And that was the picture.
You must have by now about two million
negatives and slides lying around your studio.
It's very hard to keep up with them.
My wife complains all the closets at home
are full of negatives and transparencies.
And thank you, Henri Dauman, for being on the show.
It was a pleasure.
-Great pleasure. -And that's the end.
[Henri] My mother and I were reunited
and we went back to Paris
to find strangers living in our apartment.
We got our apartment back.
The people were occupying it had to leave.
And it was very nice to resume our lives.
I had been very lonely.
Missing very important years of a child's life
with his parents.
My mother was a very courageous woman.
Working those long hours, I remember,
to try to rebuild a home for us.
And I remember distinctly one day, 1946,
coming back from school.
I remember walking in the street with my books.
From a distance, I saw an ambulance
parked in front of our house.
And I remember, let's see, 1946,
that would make me 13 years old.
It crossed my mind immediately.
Oh my God, don't tell me it's my mother.
I ran over to the house,
and it turned out to be my mother.
She had bought some bicarbonate
at the pharmacy across the street,
and apparently, we didn't know then,
but she was gravely ill.
They took her to the hospital, Lariboisiere.
They did some tests.
The pharmacist, it turns out,
had bought this bicarbonate on the black market,
and it was poisoned.
I'll never forget, I went to the hospital
to visit my mother,
and then the next time I saw her,
she was on some kind of a table.
And I gave her a kiss on the forehead,
and I remember how cold she was.
And I was too young to realize what had happened.
Nine people in the neighborhood, including my mother,
died from that substance.
I was so joyful to have found my mother again.
It was so short-lived.
After surviving such traumatic experience in World War II,
there she was, gone again.
So, tragedy number two.
I remember going to my Aunt Anna
for a few days.
And I overhead a conversation
when they thought I was asleep.
Apparently it was decided to put me
into a children's home.
Most of the time, adults don't realize
the understanding that children have
of what they overhear.
You hear a word here, a word there.
And I knew distinctly that I had been rejected.
So, I was very angry for my relatives
not seeing fit to make some effort
to do better than to send me to an orphan's home.
It took many years to get over that.
I did get over it, I forgave them.
But it was extremely traumatic.
This is a set of photographs taken of Simone
on November 12th, 1950, yeah.
This is Simone, who's sitting by my side now.
These pictures were taken about
a month before I went to the United States.
That's Simone at 19.
Not bad, huh?
It was 1950.
I was 17 years old, yeah. Not too bad.
They're always laughing.
Hey, she's laughing now.
And this is their mother,
my Aunt Anna...
at her apartment at 34.
My Aunt Anna, yeah.
It's hard to believe that this was done
Such a long time ago.
But memories never go away.
I felt kind of lost in this home.
I just could not participate.
I was not a happy camper there, let me put it this way.
That really forced me to survive on my own
and work to become independent.
And get out of those orphanages,
which I disliked greatly.
What really sustained me was seeing movies.
Even when my mother was at the hospital,
I was so traumatized by it.
I remember coming back from the hospital.
Just going to a movie.
I remember seeing a lot of American movies,
like "The Great Ziegfeld",
Bing Crosby's "Blue Sky", Esther Williams.
Sometimes I would skip school, or right after school,
go to see a Laurel and Hardy movie.
I had never seen this kind of funny stuff before.
And it really took me into a new world.
I saw Cary Grant movies.
I asked for a match, not a fire starter.
Hey, what's going on?
I said, "My God, what a wonderful world this is.
Where have I been?"
I enjoyed the American film noir
with their backlights and the dramatic lighting.
I always admired that feel.
So yes, of course,
my work was very influenced by the movies.
So many movies that I had seen
in order to forget my present at the time.
Cinema taught me how to tell a story.
And that has stayed with me
during my whole career.
So, when I arrived in Courbevoie, a new home,
they knew of my interest
and they placed me in the local photo shop.
So, first contact with photography.
[announcer] Now Patterson knows the title is there
for the retaking.
[Henri] I think it was Yankee Stadium.
The fight of Johansson, Patterson.
I took only a few pictures of the fight.
The KO, I turned around and photographed the KO.
But the main part of that story was
a sequence of Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher,
her husband at the time.
That sequence made the story.
Another similar case, Sugar Ray Robinson.
I photographed his wife reacting to the fight.
And that told the story better than looking at the fight.
These are the kind of cinematic sequences
that I would often do
because of my influence of American
and French cinema.
[Merry] He could be in this chaotic,
emotional, charged situation,
photographing a really important assignment or subject,
and you feel as if the world falls away.
And it's just him and the subject.
And while doing that,
there's also this incredible sense of lighting.
So, I think he's unusual,
in that he would have the ability
to sort of make these calculations quickly
and on his feet in any situation,
and give the attention that the subject deserves
in order to really create a captivating image.
[Henri] In 1949, I received a letter from my Uncle Sam
in the United States,
who had heard of my plight,
asking me if I would like to come
to the United States.
[interviewer] Had you ever spoken to him before?
♪ Strong and mighty
♪ Feel my temperature rising
[Henri] I thought here, maybe living in the United States
might be what I see in movies.
[Henri] I was here, boarding the Le Havre.
I had no idea what was awaiting me in New York.
So on December 14th, 1950,
I landed in the United States and met my Uncle Sam.
I saw the dockers were eating white bread sandwiches.
It looked like cotton to me.
I'd say, "Oh, my God, what are they eating?"
I was always fascinated with New York.
The most visual city in the world.
And it was a natural thing for somebody
new to New York to just look up.
♪ A hunk a hunk of burning love ♪
♪ A hunk a hunk of burning love ♪
♪ A hunk a hunk of burning love ♪
I hardly spoke English,
and I got myself a job at the Belgian Chamber of Commerce.
At least they spoke French.
And I must have been an office boy or something.
And I took night courses in English.
And I started to propose pictures
to a French newspaper called France-Amerique.
And that's how I really got into it.
I started to take pictures for that newspaper.
He was in charge of photographing
French politicians, movie stars, artists,
and also documenting the everyday life
of the French community in New York City.
[Guy] It's after seeing the exhibition in Paris
that I decided to ask him to do a portfolio for us.
I discovered, and I didn't know about it,
that actually started his career
as a photographer with France-Amerique,
but a long time ago, meaning late '40s, early '50s.
It was quite a coincidence that I would bring him back
to a magazine where he had worked
40 or 50 years before.
[Henri] My eye was my only defense against poverty.
I photographed all kinds of Franco-American events.
And at one of those events, a ball,
I met my future wife, Denise.
I remember going to the Lover's Paradise with her
to see "Singing In The Rain".
And it was raining that night.
She became everything for me.
She was my assistant, my mistress,
she was my mother.
[Henri] It was of great comfort to me
to be surrounded with such love,
which I have missed since my mother's death in 1946.
I sought the company of somebody
who would be in the image of my mother.
You could certainly construe that.
I learned from her sister that she told her
that she wanted to take care of me
where my mother had not been able to do.
So, she felt that way.
I was still very young.
We married when I was 20 years old.
She was so receptive to me and I to her.
It was a pleasure to have a companion
who shared common goals
to build a new life
in a country that was unknown to both of us.
We raised two children, Philippe and Brigitte.
It is with the help of my wife
that I was able to accomplish what I did
because the work was extremely hard.
I worked 24/7.
[Brigitte] My mother was very dependable.
She always took care of everything.
So he could concentrate fully
and give his 100% attention to his work.
She helped to keep him organized.
She really did.
Oh, this is a record of all the assignments that I did.
These are the notes that Denise wrote.
This is her handwriting, all of these.
This record goes back to '57.
Quite a few years.
This is a profession that requires complete commitment.
Any creative work is difficult.
It takes everything you've got.
You have to work your ass off.
So, I did.
♪ Wow, I feel good
I knew that I... ♪
[Henri] After working for the French paper,
and as I got more sophisticated,
I started to do stories on my own.
I bought myself a Leica with a 21 millimeter lens
and started to test the lens
by putting the camera down on the ground.
♪ I feel nice
[Henri] And I found some graphic design
in the city looking up.
♪ I feel nice
♪ Like sugar and spice
[Henri] It was a new way to look at New York,
and I eventually sold the story to the New York Times Magazine.
I became a one man agency.
Shooting during the day,
processing the film and making prints during the night.
I would transform my bathroom
and part of the kitchen into a darkroom.
I started to cover events that I was
reading about in the newspapers.
♪ And I feel
I went then without anybody asking me to.
I just got myself into some events.
Often with famous personalities.
A lot of photographers were screaming at me to get down
because I was very close,
on top of the subject,
to get the perspective that I sought.
I would get out of the way
when they were screaming too loudly,
but only after I got the picture.
It's a tough business.
And it's all instinctive.
I had the idea of contacting European magazines
in France, Germany, and the UK.
So I would FedEx packages of photographs
and it grew very quickly.
Little by little, I infiltrated myself
in the magazine world.
Because I had photographs that they were eager to print.
Life Magazine in those days was rich.
They could afford to send three, four teams,
maybe more if necessary, to cover a story.
And they would see this European magazine.
There's this little young green French kid
beating them regularly on the same type of story.
So, I started very innocently at life in '58.
It was very exciting. This was a dream come true for me.
Finally, it was paying off.
[mellow rhythmic music]
[upbeat rhythmic music]
By 1962, I was a successful photographer
working for Life, one of Hugh Hefner's magazines,
Show Business Illustrated, and Newsweek Magazine.
I did a lot of traveling,
working for Life, other magazines.
I went to Cuba during the Castro Revolution.
The reporter that came with me
was wearing a red dress.
I said, "My God, they're gonna shoot at us.
You're wearing a red dress."
She said, "On the contrary, I'm wearing a red dress
and it will show my curves.
Nobody's gonna shoot at us."
And she was right, we never got shot at.
We maxed out whatever we could do.
He wanted to do the most that he could to survive
and to grow and to thrive.
[Henri] Now, I must tell you that when I'm wearing
a camera around my neck,
I basically have no fear.
I have taken pictures in waters
that I cannot swim.
To this day, I still don't know how to swim.
But with a camera, I go in the water
and take pictures if I must.
And it's possibly the reason why I love to photograph.
I feel invincible.
If the subject sees you wavering,
you've lost the battle
to tell the story.
That's why it requires a lot of discipline
and readiness at all times.
From Dallas, Texas,
the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy,
died at one p.m. Central Standard Time.
[Henri] I believe I had the first five or six pages
of the funeral issue.
I had the credentials to walk with the cortege.
And there was one moment
where I could walk in front of Jackie
and seize that picture that became a double page in Life.
Jackie with the black veil.
It happened in one moment.
I got two frames out of that.
You only need one that crystallizes the subject.
The photograph that you were taking for L'Express
of the monk in Saigon,
when his arms crossed,
and the next week,
Time Magazine made--
The same week.
-The same week? -Yep.
My cover that ran in L'Express Magazine,
a French magazine,
is dated 18 to 24 April 1966.
And this is a Time Magazine cover
of April 22, 1966.
Here they are.
A few days later,
comes Time Magazine with a copy of my photograph.
I went to Vietnam in the mid '60s
to do a story on the Buddhists
who were emulating themselves.
This was a country at war.
Life had already sent several photographers
to penetrate the leadership of those Buddhists
and then what moved them,
what their ideas were.
And everybody had been unsuccessful.
The Vietnamese in those days
forget that they spoke French,
but they did speak French.
And I was able to infiltrate
the leadership of the Buddhists
and I photographed Thich Quang,
who was the leader encouraging the movement
of protesting the war.
[Denis] When I learned about Henri's childhood,
it changed the way I viewed his work ethic
and his attention to detail.
He doesn't, to this day, believe in the 80 20 solution.
He believes in perfection.
Whatever that means in his own mind.
But he doesn't believe in half measures.
I think that was his coping mechanism.
So, I think he definitely has an ability
to connect with people.
I don't think it's a quick ability.
I think it's something he's learned over time,
and a skill he's honed.
He makes it all look so deceivingly easy,
as anybody who's really good at what they do can do.
[reporter] What is the ways in which photojournalism itself,
because that is what you've done,
you've covered the world's events,
how has that changed over the course of your time?
Oh, it has changed tremendously.
The magazine world started to go downhill
in the, I would say, late '60s, early '70s,
where the press was consolidating
and it was very expensive to publish
a magazine such as Life,
which had a circulation of eight and a half million copies.
Mailing those magazines for subscribers became expensive,
and television was encroaching the magazine world.
There came a time where
most photojournalists like me
did not have a stage in which to perform anymore.
Magazines were dying off.
They were already stating in their annual report
that the future for media company would be
owning the intellectual property.
So, I felt it was very important to own
negatives and transparencies for our future.
They wanted to retain the rights,
and they would favor those that would cooperate.
[Ted] He stood up for the rights of photographers and artists.
Perhaps Henri had had enough.
He did not want to be bullied by anybody.
He did not want to be abused
by any authority.
And he wanted to stand up for what he believed was his,
his right as a person
and his right as an artist.
[Henri] We were able to recruit
a couple thousand photographers to cooperate
and not do assignments,
which required to give up the rights
to their negatives and transparencies.
Some of them would not want to jeopardize their career,
and I understand it.
And those who did paid dearly for this.
We worked a lot less.
But I think that it was the right thing to do,
even though it was done at a great sacrifice.
[Brigitte] I saw the struggle.
He tried to adapt.
He rented a studio on the West Side
to be able to do more editorial work,
more commercial work.
So, it was really, what was he gonna do next
to put food on the table.
My mother went back to work.
And it was a lot tougher.
There is no smoke.
-[interviewer] There is. -There is? Oh, you see it?
Oh, my God, I don't see it. Does it dive right?
-I don't see it there. -Yeah.
Yeah, okay, yeah.
-Okay, great. -Yeah, the rays are not
really okay but it's fine, yeah.
[interviewer] Oh, this is really nice.
What is it?
That's my wife.
[interviewer] Can you tell us what's going on here?
This is taken in Brittany in France.
My wife was from a village called
[indistinct] in Brittany.
And we're celebrating my daughter's fourth birthday.
A happy moment.
In 1983, I guess,
on a routine visit to the doctor,
my wife was diagnosed as having ovarian cancer.
She was operated on, I think, three or four times.
She had a wish to go and see her sister in France.
She got progressively worse.
On the third day, we had to call an ambulance,
and she went to the hospital in Nantes,
where she passed away a couple days later.
And how shall I say it?
I remember the same kiss I gave my mother,
giving it to my wife. Again, the cold kiss.
And I was devastated to go through this
one more time.
It's even hard to talk about it today.
And it's been 10 years that she passed away.
We had a pretty full life for over 30 years.
Paradise does not last very long.
You move from one paradise to the next.
Sometime, it's not paradise, and sometime, it is.
Sometime it's ecstasy.
It all depends at what stage of life you are at.
Maybe that's why I'm alive.
This is what probably is keeping me alive.
Is this quest for
always a better future life.
So, I always look forward to the future.
[Merry] There is this light around him
that is really incredible.
And I think it affects everyone he meets.
And I think a lot of that is just from
not taking things for granted
and appreciating things around him.
What's especially important and special about
Henri's photography is this sheer
time period of documentation.
They also read a whole narrative
about a period of time in America
that I think reflects on what's happening
socially, culturally, politically now.
But it's so interesting
that this is his first U.S. exhibition,
and it's capturing so much of American history.
I think what related us,
I know that he cared deeply for his mother.
And his mother had passed away a year or two before.
And of course, you know I lost my mother
when I was 13 years old.
So we could relate here
on what it is to lose a mother.
And he changed completely
after the loss of his mother.
And then of course, later on,
his manager, Colonel Parker, which we see here,
in front of Graceland,
was a Dutch citizen.
And funny enough,
he could not take Elvis on tours in Europe
because he was in the United States illegally.
We found out later, at the time it was a secret.
So, Elvis never performed abroad because of that.
Yeah, this is my introduction to the savage nomad.
I first went with this detective.
She looks at him so lovingly,
and yet, in him,
I didn't see that loving look.
And of course, she spoke French.
So we could communicate in French, which helped.
This guy works with dirt.
That's his art.
Her husband would call me out in the crowd.
They'd say, "Henri, come closer, come closer".
It worked out well. I could not have done better in a studio.
I mean, she doesn't even know I'm taking the picture.
Sometime I'm like a fly on the wall.
Nobody knows I'm here.
Other times, we create moments together
And that's what it's all about.
Some people write with pencil.
We write with light.
[Merry] Generationally speaking,
artists were considered people who studied art formally,
that got a certain degree in studio art.
And I don't think Henri would ever assume
to claim the title of an artist,
but that's what he's become.
[upbeat band music]
[Henri] Photography became a
form of escapism at the beginning.
But as I moved on in my profession,
the camera allowed me to be in the forefront.
To express myself and to communicate
about what I have seen.
So you could say that
I've been an eyewitness to history.
Even after I'm gone,
the pictures will speak for me
about what essentially it was like.
And show that I existed.
That I came by in this planet.
Thank you very much.
Look down at the bottom of the lens.
Hey Odiana, take a look, here.
No, I had it right on the Sacre-Coeur for you.
[Odiana] Oh, all I see is the sky.
[Odiana] Oh yeah.
-Oh, nice. -Nice.
A mutual friend of ours
invited us for lunch at their--
-Oh, sorry. -Brunch.
[Odiana] Neither one of us knew that we were gonna be there.
I was told this is a brunch.
But she planned it because she has been
trying for us to meet for the longest time.
I was not interested in going to the brunch
'cause I wanted to go to the beach.
[Henri] And I had to go to a
Fourth of July party in Westchester.
So, I had to delay that departure.
-So both of us went there-- -To go to the brunch.
And then when I went there and I met him,
I said, "Oh, my God, what have I been missing all this time?"
[Odiana] And of course, a few days after,
he calls me and we plan about having dinner on Saturday.
And I thought I was picking him up from his apartment.
And then when I arrived to the apartment,
he had set up the most magnificent dinner.
He filled the house with flowers.
He was cooking the whole day.
Preparing a five course meal.
And it was a magic evening.
-Taking that. -No, no, not good.
They're not doing anything.
It's coming, it's coming.
There we go.
I thought that I had lost something again
that could not be replaced.
And lo and behold, found love again.
So another minor miracle to find
this thing I was missing for so many years.
To regain it again.
She's the extra heartbeats that his
heart has been missing.
With his ailing heart over the years.
She's kept him alive.
[Odiana] The second time we met,
I heard the whole story of his life.
But I didn't realize that I was the only one
being told besides Denise, his first wife.
He never opened up to anybody.
Nobody knew professionally what he had gone through
or where he came from or what happened to him.
Nobody helped him in his childhood.
He was left alone to fend for himself.
He has that capability of putting himself
in somebody else's shoes.
He's able to capture
a vulnerable moment in his subject
that only he can see, nobody else.
And that's what makes it so unique.
It's mostly his sensitivity
to the subject he's photographing.
It's difficult to say whether or not
I have a philosophy.
Trying to overcome
major traumas in life
makes you a permanent optimist
if you want to survive.
Because no matter how dark things get,
you always hope that you will pull out of it.
And that's what I did so far.
[Nicole] Yeah, who knows. If you had stayed in Paris,
if your mother had lived,
you maybe would not have had the career that you had.
You wouldn't have met Grammy.
You wouldn't have had Brigitte and Philippe and me.
And it's a ripple effect.
Yes, well that is most likely not, yeah.
Would've been different.
It shows you that just
slight events that you don't know
will affect your whole life.
You're not aware at the time.
It's very strange.
But it turned out okay at the end.
But I had to go through a lot
to get back and rebuild a family.
The whole family was,
many of them were deported and die in Auschwitz.
So, we were lucky.
A few lucky ones.
And I was able to rebuild a family.
And I met your grandma.
The rest is history, right?
We built a new family.
And you're the proof of it.
[Nicole] The proof of the pudding.
The proof of the pudding, yes.
So, I'm happy that that's the,
everybody asks me, "What's your best
achievement in photography?"
I always say, not photography.
The rebuild up of a family.
You never want to repeat the war again.
People who are anti-government,
they should think two or three times before they
think of making war.
Because the effects on the children
is incredibly bad.
It was painful and difficult sometimes.
I did not have the normal childhood life
that most children get.
But if you're on the dance floor, you gotta dance.
So I had to grow up very fast.
Of course I missed her love.
It takes a long time to stabilize in that situation.
But it might have helped me,
unbeknownst to me, to have to survive.
She would be so happy to see
how the family expanded.
I discovered in only 1987
that my father had been deported to Auschwitz
and died there soon thereafter.
The first name is misspelled, should be a J,
and the last name, of course, is misspelled.
We're gonna need to have this corrected.
I hardly knew my father because he was deported in 1942.
I was only nine years old.
Of course, my parents would be ecstatic
to know that we got out of the dire poverty
that we were in.
Fortunately, the grandchildren are knowing
a much better life than I ever knew.
I expect more great things.
I will see some, and some of them I'll miss.
But I know that they will all succeed
and do very well in life.
So I would call it a tremendous success.
So after more than half a century,
I got a new perspective of where I have been
and how that, little by little,
I have built my stairway to paradise.
It's been a long climb.
It only took 65 years.
I guess, not too bad.
[mellow cheerful music]
[Henri] You want to put the backlight?
Yeah, we're gonna run it, do it really quick.
-You tell me when it's good. -Yeah.
Improving but there's no light on the panels.
The panels are not capturing it.
Down, oh there, what happened?
-I started it. -Turned it, yeah.
No, that's it, okay.
Come on, everybody, clear the set.
One more shot.
Here, like this, yes, right here.
About a foot.
[Nicole] Are you tired?
I'm back working.
It was nice that way.
[crew member] My finger was in there.
-Your finger? -Yep.
It was in the corner.
Okay, keep going.
Do it over.
Try to be fluid, huh?
Do my best.
Yeah, no, best is not good enough.
[mellow cheerful music]
If you hold it there--
-Yeah, okay. -Yeah.
[mellow cheerful music]
-It's finished, yes. -All right.
-Pleasure doing work with you. -Thank you, sir.
-Okay, I'm off to the race. -See you later.
[mellow cheerful music]
[mellow playful music]