November 25, 2020

Famous photographer visits Webster, attracts more than 200 visitors

COLLEEN DOHERTY/ The Journal Gregory Heisler talks to Stephan Hester, a Webster University alumni and past photo assistant of Heisler, at the reception in the Sunnen Lounge. Heisler, a professional photographer who shot more than 70 Time magazine covers, spoke at Webster on April 6 in the Winifred-Moore Auditorium.

Photographer Gregory Heisler gave a group of more than 200 people his insight on photography and told personal stories of his experiences photographing presidents, rock stars and Olympic athletes on April 6 at 7 p.m. in the Winifred-Moore Auditorium.

Heisler also spoke highly of his mentor Arnold Newman, who Heisler assisted when he was 21.

Heisler’s photographs have been featured on Time Magazine more than 70 times, including many “Person of the Year” covers. His photos also have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, ESPN Magazine, GQ, Life and New York Times Magazine.

Although he has shot numerous celebrities, he said he loves shooting regular people as much as the famous. He added the famousness of a celebrity can sometimes get in the way of him finding the uniqueness of the character.

“My goal is to see you and have a good picture turn out,” Heisler said to a student during a reception following his talk. “If you didn’t know who the celebrity was you wouldn’t care about the photo. If you were a martian who didn’t know who the person was you wouldn’t care about the photo.”

Stefon Hester, a 1999 Webster University graduate, went to New York City in 2000 and assisted Heisler. Hester said he didn’t know what he was getting into.

“I didn’t understand his legacy with Newman,” Hester said. “Working with Heisler was intense.”

Hester remembered Heisler’s shoot featuring New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in which he and Heisler worked for 20 hours straight for the end product.

“It showed me all the effort it takes to produce the pictures he took,” Hester said.

When Hester worked with Heisler, Hester said he came to understand that Heisler was not just taking photographs, but creating historical documents.

“The photo had a story connected to a bigger world,” Hester said.

In between Heisler speaking with different students at the reception, Ryan Duffy, a sophomore photography major, managed to snap a couple Polaroids of Heisler, which Heisler autographed. Duffy said his favorite part of Heisler’s lecture was when he talked about Newman’s work.

“Newman had a radically different way of looking at someone’s world behind them,” Duffy said.

Kate McDonald, a senior media communications major and photography minor, said she enjoyed listening to the stories behind each photograph the most.

“You can’t get that personal connection out of a book,” she said.

McDonald also said she appreciated Heisler’s idea of being able to photograph with no limits.

“Everything is available to you with all your surroundings,” McDonald said. “He thinks more outside the box in a technical way of thinking.”

Heisler’s work showed the audience that following instinct is a good skill for a photographer.

“He really inspired me to stick with my gut feeling,” said Josh Reuck, a senior photography major at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. “He taught me to not pay attention to somebody trying to tell me what I’m doing is wrong. I can invent my own style if I like.”

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