Malibu’s City Hall happily will be the site for yet another exhibit featuring the work of a local artist, the photographer Fred Ward. The exhibit opens Saturday, and promises to be haunting, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU.
Though Ward was first and foremost a deadline driven news photographer, he was in my estimation an artist; his work having risen to the level of iconic images, evocative of a time and place. He passed away at his home in Malibu, in July, at the age of 81.
For some of us the exhibit will be a trip back in time to the turbulent 1960s, for which we can thank the Malibu Cultural Arts Commission in a its continual laudable attempt to tap into the city’s scattered artistic history and celebrate its artists.
Fred Ward was a photographer for Life, Time and Newsweek magazines, back in our fleeting history when weeklies were the crown jewels of print journalism. And the most glistening, polished by a circulation that at one time topped 13.5 million copies, was Life.
So to be a photographer for the photo featured and promoted Life was to be a journalistic super star. The notable writers there that included during that time Joan Didion and Jane Howard were admittedly envious.
Indeed, all newspersons that toiled in the trenches of print at that time were envious, including those at the august New York Times, where I worked as a young reporter. Pay was said to be good at the newsweeklies, expenses better, and deadlines were only once a week.
And when journalists gathered then at select midtown watering holes to celebrate their publications being put to bed, getting a photo on the cover of Life was the equivalent to getting an Academy Award.
Ward had several, most notably in 1963 of a grief stricken, Jacqueline Kennedy with her two children before the casket of the assassinated President Kennedy. It was this photo that Andy Warhol turned into his famous print.
And in was Ward who a few days earlier had captured the image of the first lady returning to Washington with her husband’s blood on her legs.
These and other select photos of Ward when on assignment for the news weeklies and later the celebrated National Geographic are included in the retrospective. Also featured is a short video on Ward’s very full professional life, produced his son, Chris. The exhibit runs until January 13 of next year.