Last month we received a nice surprise from Frank Cost at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Frank, who is Professor of Visual Media at RIT’s School of Photography, sent us a limited edition of Contact Prints, his new photo book published by Fossil Press. The book features newly discovered photos of Elaine Gagas (Frank’s mother) taken by JGZ in 1950, when they both worked at Time Inc.’s D.C. bureau. It’s a period of my father’s early career that we know little about, so we were intrigued to see not only his photos of Elaine (left), but also a twenty something John (right) kicking back with fellow LIFE photographer Bob Phillips at a D.C. area country club.
Frank has published many experimental photo books, and the way he builds a multi-dimensional narrative out of these photo fragments is masterful. Elaine’s vivid memories of John and Bob and details from the photo shoot are interwoven with a visually compelling progression of images. And in a whimsical turn, Frank persuades his mother, soon to be 90, to reenact some of the poses from the 1950 photo shoot.
There’s something magical in looking at these photos of Elaine striking the same poses sixty five years later, still smiling and as vivacious as ever. One wonders how her life unfolded in the decades between the two photo shoots. Contact Prints leaves us with one final comparison to ponder: Zimmerman and Phillips’s New York Times obituaries, side by side. They offer a striking double portrait of the two photojournalists in both word and image. LZ