Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Neil Leifer and AGD

Neil Leifer (center) with Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas
and Head Coach Don Sula (from the book "Guts and Glory")

BENNINGTON -- The 296-page landscape-format book celebrating Neil Leifer's iconic photos from the savage ballet weighs 5.29 pounds and serves as a portal that transports NFL fans new and old to that time and place in America that can never be recaptured.

This is what 5.29 pounds and 296 pages looks like ...

But here's what it really looks like ...

Neil Leifer is to still-photography of the old NFL
what the Sabols were to those old and great NFL Films

"Guts and Glory" (buy it HERE) is the kind of book Art Gallery Dude envisioned October 13 when Fiddlehead at Four Corners art gallery in downtown Bennington launched the world's first Graffiti Vault. Two months later, on the day AGD received Guts and Glory as a Hanukah gift, he published "Chalk It Up!" (buy it HERE).

Like Guts and Glory, Chalk It Up is a landscape-format book featuring 90 pages of color pictures of Fiddlehead customers who left their chalk marks on the Graffiti Vault walls. 

Here is what 90 pages looks like ...

AGD is excited about Chalk It Up! More on that later.

ON DECEMBER 28, Leifer will turn 70. Fifty-four years to the day earlier, on his 16th birthday, Leifer used a free ticket to get into Yankee Stadium to shoot the NFL title game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants. 

The thing about photography, and especially sports photography, is that luck plays a much bigger role in the product than the great skills you think you possess.

And so from 10 yards away, on the field behind the end zone, Leifer snapped the moment within moment in time: Alan Ameche barreling into the end zone in overtime to give the Colts the win. It is considered the greatest NFL game ever played.

Ameche scores the winning touchdown (Neil Leifer photo)

In an interview with Larry Berman and Chris Maher almost 11 years ago (HERE), Leifer said this about the moment in time he shared with Alan Ameche:

"When Alan Ameche scored the winning touchdown there were so many Colt's fans, (mainly drunken Colt's fans) on the field that the security had their hands full just making sure that they could keep those people off the field. They weren't worried about someone like me that they had seen every week. So I ended up exactly ten yards in front of Ameche as he scored the winning touchdown.

"He came right at me and I got that picture, which today, is certainly one of my best-known pictures. I always think that if I had had any money and any decent equipment, I would never have taken that picture because, if I would have had a long lens, a 135mm or a 180mm, I would have tried to fill the frame with Ameche going in for the winning touchdown. Instead, I got the wide shot that takes the whole ambiance of Yankee Stadium that afternoon which is so much better than any picture I would have taken years later when I was an established pro."

During his newspaper sportswriting days, Art Gallery Dude captured iconic moments in football, basketball, soccer, hockey (ice and field), track and field, baseball, softball, cross country, wrestling, crew, equestrian and other sports.

One of his best moments came in October 2004 while covering the Vermont Division I field hockey title game in Rutland between Hartford and South Burlington.

Hartford's best player (best in state, too) was Maegan Luce, a super-fast and bull-strong dribbling whiz of a center forward who led Vermont in goals. Throughout the season she delighted fans with delirious length-the-field runs through helpless and hopeless defenses and completed those runs by rattling the cage time and again, 24 times by the time the Hurricanes reached the title game against the Rebels.

The game was about to start. AGD stood on Hartford's sideline at midfield.

"I'm not superstitious or anything like that, but right before the whistle I got a feeling to walk down toward the South Burlington cage," AGD told Incredible Kulk.

The whistle sounded to start the game. Luce dribbled down the heart of the field, zigging and zagging through the underbelly of South Burlington's defense. South Burlington's goalie, a freshman, charged out, but didn't have a chance. Luce dribbled around her and banged the ball into the back of the cage.

It was 1-0 after 11 seconds. Never saw that. Neither team scored in the final 59:49.

AGD's intuition led to his bit of photographic luck ...

Maegan Luce celebrates the title-winning goal;
teammate Allison Kemon (left) celebrates

... soon as the cage rattled Luce turned toward AGD and jumped up and made a fist and screamed -- CLICK -- and that was a moment within moment in time. No other photographer (newspaper or otherwise) stood near AGD so he was the only one to get this.

"Sometimes," AGD said, "you just get lucky."

Neil Leifer would say the same thing. His most famous photo is this ...

... the night Ali knocked Liston to his ass in Lewiston. In all the corners in all the boxing rings in the world, Leifer was standing in this corner. The photo doesn't work or come close to capturing the imagination if he's in any other corner.

Years later Leifer celebrated the photo with Ali ...

... one day AGD hopes to take an iconic photo that the world talks about forever.

In the meantime, he wants supporters to buy "Chalk It Up" -- the book he self-published through It has registered 4 sales in its first week on the market. AGD won't get rich off the book. The prices are $61.95 (soft cover), $69.99 (hardcover with dust jacket) or $79.99 (image-wrapped hardcover) but he only makes a $25 profit on each sale.

Art Gallery Dude is working on volume two of Chalk It Up! In the last few days these Fiddlehead customers have gone nuts in the Graffiti Vault and walked out with chalk-tipped fingers and child-like smiles (click to embiggen).

Jacqueline Bezzant

Suzanne L. Brown

Linda Finney (read her story below)

MAU nordic skier Lauren Driscoll

Marlene Driscoll, her mom, with a Lake Paran party announcement ...

... except AGD didn't see the right side of the wall

Bennington College lit major Roma Aryal


For more of AGD's sports and street photos from 2003 thru 2007 click HERE and HERE.

AGD hopes to publish a book of his sports photos. If he does, this one could be the cover ...

He lost the arm in a motocross wreck a year earlier;
here he whacks a one-handed single for White Mountains High

Or maybe this one ...