Tuesday, September 21, 2010

George Kalinsky: The Camera Eye

George Kalinsky raised his camera and took aim at Mick Jagger as the 26-year-old performer rooster-stepped across the stage.

"That was the first major concert in The Garden, late November, 1969. It was totally sold out, and everybody was pushing from behind. My chest was pushed against the stage," Kalinsky recalled.

In a decisive moment born out of a need for personal safety as well as a responsibility to tend to the job at hand, Kalinsky ducked beneath the platform supporting The Rolling Stones and re-emerged atop the back of the stage, where he captured an iconic image of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in the world.

That's when I realized that's a great place to take pictures," he said. "I did the same thing with Bob Dylan (in 1974). You see Dylan from the back in a silhouette of light, but what really sings in that picture is the crowd."

Kalinsky is among the group of partners and investors who purchased Siro's restaurant in Saratoga Springs in July. Since 1966, he has been the chief photographer for Madison Square Garden - a position that has afforded him the opportunity to spend time with some of the 20th and 21st century's most celebrated athletes and performers at the pinnacle of their game.

It is a career that has resulted in a legacy of photographs that tell the story of an American history, one image at a time.
For a kid who grew up in a post-World War II era with a love of sports and a yearning to be an artist, it has been gratifying to know his images have been hung at places like the Museum of Modern Art as well as at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The work has provided him a wealth of memories alongside the images: sitting with a surprisingly shy Elvis Presley, who was draped in a white jumpsuit and a cape, while preparing to go onstage in front of an adoring crowd; meeting Pope John Paul II as he prepared to deliver a papal mass; There was the night John Lennon jumped on stage to join Elton John during a concert in 1974, and another which featured Lennon's former Beatle-mates George Harrison and Ringo Starr at the fundraising event billed as The Concert for Bangladesh.

Shortly after Frank Sinatra died, his daughter Tina sought out the photographer to let him know that it was a picture that Kalinsky took of the often-photographed singer that captured the essence of Sinatra, above all others.
"That was an emotional moment for me, and I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment," Kalinsky said. "I had goose bumps when she spoke to me."

Of all the iconic photographs taken and the accolades received, there are some images that stand above all others in the photographer's mind.

The Ali-Frazier fight in 1971, which Kalinsky calls "arguably the greatest sporting event of all time," was one.

The seventh game heroics of Knicks' captain Willis Reed in 1970, and Rangers' captain Mark Messier in 1994, each inspiring their respective teams to championships celebrated at The Garden, are some of the others.

There was "that extraordinary moment" in 1979 when Pope John Paul II lifted up a 6-year-old girl in front of the entire arena that is forever captured in an image by Kalinsky, and an international cast of characters who came to Madison Square Garden in the fall of 2001 in the weeks shortly following a terrorist attack.

"That Concert for New York City right after 9/11 wasn't just for New Yorkers. The whole world was watching and looking to the firefighters and to the police officers, with tears in their eyes holding up pictures of their loved ones," Kalinsky said.

The photographer credits Madison Square Garden with giving him many opportunities.

"One of the great things about The Garden is that there is such a variety of events. I've been very lucky, and I feel privileged to be able to capture that moment when an athlete or an entertainer achieves the kind of excellence that can only be achieved at The Garden," he said.

"They know this is the world's most famous arena and that what they can accomplish here will get more publicity than anywhere else in the world. So, they strive for that excellence. They sing better. They play better. And I feel privileged to be able to capture that moment."

by Thomas Dimopoulos
Published in The Post-Star, Sept. 21, 2010.

For more information on George Kalinsky, GO HERE.

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