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From The Vault Of Art Shay: Looking Back At My Time Covers

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 20, 2013 6:20PM

(Legendary Chicago-based photographer Art Shay has taken photos of kings, queens, celebrities and the common man in a 60-year career. This week, Art looks back on 30 years of Time magazine covers.)

Last week’s news by Time Warner that it is spinning off its Time Inc. magazines into a separate company — a death knell, in my opinion — was caparisoned in the flowery financial crepe-talk we've come to expect from old, wonderful whales suddenly going belly-up. Think of the billions of dollars earned by the magazines, several possible buyers, competition by other media, great cover stories, great covers, great covers, great covers.

That last phrase brought these 90-year-old eyes to tears. I had no real idea how many Time covers I had done or helped do. Helped? Yeah, Time magazine was a compendium of teamwork, and some of the most skilled players were artists and photographers you never heard of, like me. My favorite collaborator (who probably didn't know me by name) was named Boris Chaliapin, son of the great Russian basso. I first became aware of him years ago at the National Portrait Gallery in DC . I was kvelling over three of my photos they bought and hung (Leo Durocher, Hugh Hefner, Robert Crumb) when I happened to look into the adjoining gallery and saw there in full 16x20 glory the first prize winner in a cover competition — my Time cover photo of Green Bay football coach Vince Lombardi. Only the portrait didn't carry my byline!

There in small, proud letters, was the copier's name: Boris Chaliapin. Of course I had been sent to Green Bay (and paid well) to produce the portrait slide for a Time cover. but still.

So my master archivist, Erica DeGlopper, began her ongoing project of building a 3-foot x 3-foot art panel made up of miniatures of all my (GASP!) 1,126 covers. Or at least the thousand or so we can find!

I began reflecting on what a fun place Time Inc. was to work. And what a joy doing some 950 assignments for Time over some 30 years had been. About 10 straight portraits - and a score or more belted around this blog - in cooperative partnership with gifted canvas artists.

The pretty, young Hollywood reporter for NPR was used to interviewing garrulous old showbiz men. I could tell she didn't believe me a month ago at my DRKRM Gallery show in L.A, when I boasted of having done more than 1,000 magazine and book covers, 60 of them on books of my own. Years earlier, my very own son-in-law, then an editor for the NY Times, politely expressed the same doubt.

Erica then started pulling out tear sheets and got to 400 before we all went bleary eyed. We hadn't counted several hundred on magazines like Medical World News and the dozen or so Blue Cross Health Books -or Boy Scout magazine or Business Week, Parade, This Week, Forbes, two on Life, two on Fortune, 10 on Sports Illustrated … fun assignments, mostly.

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago's Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.