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Matinee: 'Art Shay: The Sporting Life and Times' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 November 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 212th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Art Shay: The Sporting Life and Times.

When the tributes to you come from Studs Terkel, Roger Ebert and David Mamet, you not only span several decades but are, like the finest things in life, safely beyond flattery. Art Shay, winner of this year's lifetime achievement Lucie Award, is beyond flattery.

That doesn't mean your friends and colleagues won't try, of course. And a star-studded cast of them honored Shay in this tribute for his Lucie award:

But we enjoyed the man speaking for himself, so we're pointing you to the four-year-old clip at the top.

Ebert's quote leads it off:

At Shay's photography shakes you up, sets you down gently, pats you on the head, and then kicks you in the ass.

A triple whammy, in short. And between the two videos you'll see enough of Shay's work to require a pillow on your chair for the rest of the day.

We then see Shay in his Deerfield, Ill., home telling us how he used his father's Kodak until he was 14. Then he started developing film and printing pictures, moving up the gear chain until he could buy a Leica.

He points out a set of the first images he was paid for from that Leica. It's a series depicting a mid-air collision. He was a navigator coming back to England from a mission, heard "a big swarm of planes" and started taking photos of it when the collision occurred, which he followed to the ground. Look magazine published the pictures and he was on his way.

That tells you something about the man. Nothing escapes him.

We've just told you what you'll see before the title appears on the screen. We'll stop there. We don't want to spoil the clip by taking the words out of his mouth. With one exception.

Who would cover the Second Coming? That was the question a Life editor posed one day, Shay says at the end of the clip.

Then he answered his own question. "I would hire Shay," the guy says, "because while you were setting up your tripod, he'd get 36 pictures and the release. From Jesus."

And an autograph for his kids, too.

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