Not a name that’s instantly recognisable, but Sam created some of the 20th centuries most icon movie images … like the one of Marilyn standing over a subway air vent struggling to hold down her skirt, and the portrait of Marlon Brando wearing a ripped t-shirt, an image that became synonymous with A Streetcar Named Desire.
Sam was a talented human being … from an early career as a cartoonist, he graduated from film stills photographer, being a contributor to Magnum Photo agency, and Life magazine covers to Hollywood producer. He become actor turned director John Cassavetes right-hand man on seminal films like Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night and Gloria.
One of the nicest experiences I’ve had shooting a portrait. Sam was in town to promote a Cassavetes retrospective. His eyes exuded warmth, the kind that people are drawn toward. He was curious as to how I ended up in Tokyo, pursuing my passion for photography. Perhaps he could see something of his younger self in me, following dreams, soaking up every experience. I posed him in front of one of his photos of John, and knowing what respect he held for him, when it came to printing in the darkroom, left the ceiling aircon outlet as a ‘halo’ over his head.
We were all getting on so well FIGARO editor Asako Akai suggested we go to lunch, joined by Sam's son Larry, also a regarded photographer. Sam wasn’t short of a story. A day to remember.