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Henwar Rodakiewicz

Ned Scott met Henwar Rodakiewicz in 1931 after he joined the Camera Club of New York. Their friendship was to last until Ned's death in 1964. Ned faithfully kept all Henwar's letters over many years, one of which is displayed here. Henwar was very well connected to those on the leading edge of photographic artistic expression. He was a practitioner himself, preferring natural forms found in nature which were uncluttered by human thought or feeling. Cloud formations and shimmering water surfaces were particularly strong subjects for Henwar. Scott took up the idea himself in his own nature photography.

Henwar distinguished himself as a documentary film maker. Among his better known efforts are Portrait of a Young Man in 1932 and Georgia O'Keeffe in 1947. What is not generally known about Henwar's contribution to the world of film is his uncredited assistance on the projects which others conceived and started. Some notable productions on which Henwar collaborated are Paul Strand's Redes in 1934 and Ralph Steiner's The City in 1938. Both of these productions would have languished and failed were it not for Henwar's worthy assistance. He stepped in as writer, director and cameraman, whatever was required to keep things afloat. He was the fixit man, and with his vast connections, accomplishments were the happy outcome for others. He was a man devoted to his genre.

In 1962, sensing the inevitable, Ned Scott gave all his photographic equipment to Henwar.

While living at One University Place in New York City, Henwar wrote Charlie Arnt in 1959 to fill him in on some the the highlights of his life.  It is characteristic of Henwar to abbreviate things when talking about himself.  Henwar was asked by the Director's Guild in New York to list his accomplishments.  Quoting from that letter, Henwar states he was: "free-lance writer-director with producing and editing experience.  Hollywood for six years in various capacities at Paramount and Metro.  Associate director on a number of Bing Crosby musicals and others. Some expeditionary films, OWI during war, also had own film company in New York.  Since then, mainly directing and sometimes writing, occasionally both, mostly documentary yet also entertainment films, often for TV, both with actors and non-actors.  Feature film credits on "The Wave" (Mexico), and "The City" (Worlds Fair-NYC).  Clients: various governments, foundations, corporations, film companies.  Locations: from British Guiana to Alaska.  Subjects include: International Fishing (Grand Banks), Ice Patrol (Newfoundland), Southwest (USA), Puerto Rico (2), Venezuela, NY Subways, Port Authority, Civil Defense, State Trooper, some aspects of anthropology, a Fantasy, Negro Education, Freedom of the Press, (4) Fund raising, Oil Tanker, (2) Comedies. Public Relations: (2) General Motors (1) Ford (2)Proctor and Gamble, Bronx Zoo, some Industrials, Nutrition, Public Health Service, ECA, Department of Agriculture, 375 Park Avenue, Mink, Hookworm, College Relations, Mental Health, Crime (Wanted-CBS), others.  Directed (13) The Search series (CBS) on: Uranium, Stuttering, Mental Illness, Cybernetics, Air Medicine, Crash Injury, Folk Songs, Waco Tornado, etc., which won Peabody, etc., Awards.  (2) one hour shows for 20th Century (CBS): Class of '58 and Generation Without A Cause."

 

Letter from Henwar Rodakiewicz

In a letter from Henwar Rodakiewicz, November 7, 1932 written to Ned following a Camera Club session in which Ned presented his prints for critique, Henwar details the essence of Ned Scott's photographic art. Later in his career, Paul Strand was to write to Ned that, "You are the most promising young photographer I know."  Fred Zinnemann in his 1992 autobiography pointed out that Ned's images from Redes were classics.  Modern day books and magazines proudly carry his 70 year old images on their covers.  The essence of his art was recognized early in his career, and this letter is proof of the quality and depth of his photography.


TEXT of Letter dated November 7, 1932 from Buzzards Bay, Mass., Henwar Rodakiewicz to Ned Scott, 260 East 79th Street, New York City:

Dear Ned,

 

I have been putting off writing to you, partly because I was a little timorous, partly because I was not quite sure of how to express what I wanted to say.

Your work and your attitude toward it made me feel many deep and fine things--things for which words are difficult to capture--and the captured words--out of shyness--difficult to express.  First of all, I want you to realize steadfastly that i am but another average human being with a limited understanding and sympathy for the things around me.  But your pictures struck a note which rang very true indeed, and what I said at the Camera Club that day (if you remember at all) was a true and sincere as what lay before me.  There is a freshness, an honesty, a straightforward feeling, that gives one courage.  Surely it must give that to you.  I know it does--though you hide it behind a basket of tangled words and halting phrases. After all, when I have done something that it--well-right--I am the first of all to recognize it-- the first to denounce it if it misses--I am my own severest critic.  So it must be with you.  Among the pictures there are three or four that are more than fresh and honest--they are also concise--and because of this they reach far above the others.  They are as pure and clean and unhesitating as the line of wind-blown sand against a deep blue sky.  Each is a sharp-cut mint, seen with all your faculties, meaning one unswerving thing, and saying that thing in one steady flow.  That is why they strike deep within, they have an edge that pierces the shrouds of confusion.  The others, fine in spots, ate scattered in their feeling, and so spend their force in many ways instead of driving home.  This is no cause for discouragement--it is a sign of progress--a sign of better understanding.  We all see many things in many ways--all at once sometimes.  It is only by sifting, eliminating, uncovering that we discover the naked truth.  And though a thing may have a number of truths--we can express it but one at a time, for as we do it, we express but one truth about ourselves.  So it is that from your pictures I know as much of you as I have learned in other ways--perhaps a littel more--for it lies there before me--and all I have to do is look and see.  We are all struggling toward some goal--what we do are but steps along the way. If among them one step creaks, it is not therefore unsound.  Perhaps it merely wants to be heard and recognized.  But the creaking may not reach other ears--for it is really meant alone for you.

Henwar

 

Transcript available here

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