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Remembering Editta Sherman Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

7 November 2013

The Duchess of Carnegie Hall, who had to leave the studio penthouse over Carnegie Hall where she'd raised her family and run a portrait studio for 61 years, left the larger stage at the age of 101 last week. "She is at peace now and she is clothed in her ballerina dress with her diamond shoes dancing her way home to our hearts," her Web page announced.

The oldest of eight, she was born in Philadelphia in 1912 to Nunzio and Pierna Rinaoldo, who had emigrated from Italy only two years earlier. Nunzio was himself a photographer with a studio in New Jersey where Editta learned the craft. She could wash prints at the age of 10 and assisted her father at weddings when she was 16.

Her father gave her a Brownie for her birthday but she wasn't impressed.

Her father gave her a Brownie for her birthday but she wasn't impressed. She'd seen him with his large camera and didn't want a little camera.

In 1935 she married Harold Sherman, a sound engineer and inventor. They moved to Berkeley, living in a cottage that rented for $50 a month. Reluctantly, they moved to Washington, D.C. during World War II for two years. Then the family moved to New York City when she saw an ad in the paper to live and work in Carnegie Hall.

She wasn't sure how that would work with all the noise from the concert hall. But she loved the space. And it was right next to the elevator.

Harold became her business partner when she began taking portraits professionally. The couple had five children, whom Editta raised alone after Sherman died of diabetes at the age of 50.

Her camera was a large, wooden 8x10 Kodak that captured the theatrical settings and dramatic poses that caught the soul of her celebrity subjects. And her studio was Carnegie Hall.

The Artist Studios above Carnegie Hall were intended as work-live rentals providing regular income to the struggling concert hall in its early days. She was the second tenant of Studio 1208, originally Carnegie's office. It featured a large skylight and north-facing windows and rented for $150 a month.

She fought eviction in 2007 when the Carnegie Hall Corp. planned to demolish the studios to build office and rehearsal space. Paying $530 a month for rent-controlled studio, she didn't budge for three years before accepting a Central Park South apartment for life.

But it wasn't the same. Her whole life had been at Studio 1208, she said.

(For more, see Sean Manning's interview with her, which includes a selection of her celebrity portraits. The New York Times City Room Blog also has a nice post about her, including some stories from her funeral. -- Editor)

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