Patty Armacost has served in many capacities at the ASC, having worked for the organization since the mid-1970’s. Her current title is Events Coordinator, but that belies her deep insight and unmatched appreciation for the membership. During my run as President, a certain topic would often pop up in our daily conversations: Why is it that so many cinematographers lead such long, active lives?
Over the weekend I stumbled across an article that might shed some light on the issue, pun intended. The below excerpt is from David Friend’s article, Shooting Past 80. It appeared in the January 2001 edition of Vanity Fair and though it addresses only world-famous still photographers over the age of 80, the theories apply equally well to us movie guys. I also find it rather encouraging. I’ve got a long way to go before I join the octogenarian club…!
“Some medical experts insist that creative types in general tend to live longer. “Look at Edward Steichen’s ‘The Family of Man,’ says Dr. Gene Cohen, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry who often studies art and aging. “At 75, Steichen curated what many consider the greatest photo exhibition in history. “Eisenstadt on Eisenstadt,’ published when Alfred Eisenstadt was 86, is a classic example of this.’
In fact, the photographic act requires stamina, sensory acuity, the ability to make snap judgements and to handle equipment that can be delicate as well as bulky. These mental and physical demands, according to researchers, challenge both brain hemispheres and lengthen pathways between brain cells; this, in turn, may promote longer life. “You can infer, from brain science findings,” insists Cohen,” that older photographers would be high on the list of beneficiaries of brain activity because of all this left and right side stimulation. And a new study, selecting for older “couch potatoes” who were also engaged in creative pursuits, suggests that activities of the kind photographers are drawn into seem to give a positive boost to the immune system. Which means better overall health and prolonged life. Photographer Slim Aarons, 80, puts it another way. “A writer can make it up, sitting at his desk, boozing. A photographer has to be on the front lines. Your adrenaline is going. You use everything you have in your body and somehow it translates later on in life.”
There may be something deeper still. Photographers have perspective. As a rule, they capture events or scenes that occur only once, for an extremely short spell. Yet their images allow others to share snippets of wrested time, for eternity. The best photographers have a gift for rendering the infinite within the instantaneous. “Everything I do before and as I click the shutter,” says portraitist Arnold Newman, 82, “comes from a lifetime of thinking and observing. I would like to think that it results in a richer, fuller, more perceptive life. I savor moments.”