Melvin Sokolsky is an inspiration: creative, dedicated and a man of strong convictions. Along with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon he defined fashion photography in the sixties. But beyond Penn and Avedon he pushed the creative envelope with his surreal and original ideas. The Bubble series created in 1963 for Harper’s Bazaar with model Simone Daillencourt is legendary.
I had the pleasure of visiting him in his Beverly Hills home on Valentine’s day. Melvin is curating an exhibition for a professional photography organization that I’m involved in (I’m the chairman of the LA chapter). APA = American Photographic Artists and was formerly known as Advertising Photographers of America before the name change 2 years ago. Each year APA solicits personal work for an exhibit: 100 images are selected from the thousand plus entries. Called “Off the Clock” it’s work that is done for purely personal reasons, not commissioned or created for a client – truly personal work. Previous curators have been from LACMA or the Getty, this is the first time a photographer will select the 100 images. After a one night show that draws close to a thousand guests the exhibit travels to the lobbies of top advertising agencies in LA over the coming year.
After Melvin brewed coffee for Heidi, Lisette and myself we went downstairs to his office where books by Dali and Rene Magritte shared shelf space with Einstein and Gunter Grass. Melvin has strong opinions and a unique point of view – he was given free reign at Harper’s at the age of 21 and never looked back, moving from fashion to advertising work to film and commercials. We talked about gesture, about people, about the changes he’s seen. Melvin will dive deep into a conversation and just as you feel you’ve moved into a different thread he will bring it back to the original thought with fresh insight: always exploring, always thinking, always looking, ever curious. He and his wife Button were gracious. Melvin definitely charged the creative batteries for me.