Not always did George Lacks find himself standing behind the lens of a camera. He was often situated in front of a lens as well, and by all appearances he enjoyed his role there. In most instances it would follow that the pictures you see in this section were shot by someone else, likely a colleague of George's. However, I believe this was not always the case, as George could have easily set up a tripod-mounted camera with a timed shutter release. But with so many photogs within his circle of friends, why would he? These guys almost always carried their equipment wherever they went, and even if they hadn't, George was too happy to lend them his Speed Graphic. What's more, he didn't have to give his buddies a discourse on how to operate it, since they all used essentially the same make and model of camera! Hence, no sweat for all concerned.
This section assembles all the photos of my father that I could find (with three important exceptions, all of which you can view on the Odds'n'Ends page). The photos in this section date from 1945 to 1959 or 1960. As you survey these photos, you'll see that "it's not just about George"; he was too much a part of the corps of professional photojournalists for that, and they were too much a part of him. Very similarly for George's family, which is also depicted here. I have arranged the photos primarily and precisely according to these themes— the professional and the personal—and secondarily in chronological order (to the best that I could determine, at any rate). I have chosen to interleave the two themes for increased visual interest. The section concludes with a series of solo portraits of George, either shot by himself or one of his colleagues. The series depicts George in various guises and attitudes, most of them humorous. The final entry in the series is a brief but pointed eulogy for George, written by the staff of the Los Angeles Press Photographers Association upon George's death in June 1960.
Making the photos appear somewhat consistent throughout this section was not a trivial task, because they issue from a variety of sources. These include one from Google Images, some family albums in my possession, a handful of key photo- graphs given to me by Alex Buchman, and a set of photos and xerographs that were generously donated by Delmar Watson (about whom, more below). The xerographs posed some distinctive problems, as they bear a faint sepia tone that becomes exagger- ated upon scanning. Without exception, these color artifacts were removed by desaturating the scans prior to posting them. The xerographs also have a slightly grainy texture compared to the original photographs. Fortunately, this graininess will be visible only upon very close inspection of the scans you see here.
David Delmar Watson (July 1, 1926—October 26, 2008) was born into a family of child actors who collectively appeared in more than 1,000 films. Delmar appeared in more than 300 of them, including the role of Peter in the Shirley Temple film Heidi, and a role with three of his brothers in the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He worked regularly in the movies until the early 1940s, and along with three of his brothers, served as a Coast Guard cameraman during World War II.
Delmar's family had long been established in the business of news photography. His grandfather, James Watson, shot pictures of Buffalo Bill in Los Angeles in 1904. An uncle, George Watson, was the first full-time news photographer hired by the Times, in 1917. After the war, all six of the Watson brothers worked as press, newsreel, or television photographers. In the 1940s and '50s, a Watson brother could be found at four of the five Los Angeles metropolitan dailies. In 1948 Delmar began a decade-long stint as a photographer for the Los Angeles Mirror, where George Lacks was working at the time. Afterward he joined his brothers' commercial photography business, The Six Watson Brothers Studio. (next column)
Delmar opened his own studio in 1967, and also purchased a two-story home in Hollywood, California to house a private collection of historical photographs of Los Angeles. The Watson Family Photographic Archive has been reported to contain as many as two million photos and negatives, as well as vintage cameras, old newspapers, and 60 years of press credentials. The archive was the subject of a feature article by Patt Morrison, published in the Los Angeles Times Magazine in September 1998. In 2007 the archive was moved to Glendale, California. The archive is now managed by Daniel Watson, a nephew of Delmar who is a fourth-generation press photographer and former president of the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles from 2003 through 2005.
Delmar Watson wrote or edited several books, including Quick, Watson, the Camera: Seventy- Five Years of News Photography (1975), which includes photos by the Watson brothers and a history of Los Angeles dating back to the late 1800s. He was the recipient of numerous awards, including a LIFE Magazine award in the 1950s, several Associated Press Photo awards, and two Freedom Foundation awards. In April 1999 the six brothers and three sisters of the Watson clan were finally recognized for their early work in the Hollywood motion-picture industry, by being awarded their own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
During their days of working for various L.A. newspapers, the Watson brothers were widely celebrated for their wicked sense of humor, and their reputation as pranksters of extraordinary caliber. It's been said in numerous places that no single L.A. paper dared to hire more than one brother at a time, for fear that mayhem would ensue. The pranks and practical jokes are the stuff of legend. To cite just two examples: At a funeral at Forest Lawn, immediately after a 21-gun salute was fired, the brothers released a dead chicken into the air, precisely timed and placed to fall right at the feet of the riflemen. According to Patt Morrison of the L.A. Times, during the groundbreak- ing of Dodger Stadium, an impatient TV newsman, in a hurry to cover the event on the 5 p.m. newscast, summoned a helicopter to shoot the event from the air. As it turns out, the helicopter could not send back a single image. The Watson brothers, and a few other newspaper photogs, had laid themselves on the ground, positioning their bodies so as to spell the word "FUCK". All arranged, mind you, well before cellphones came into being.
Over the last century, the entire Watson family left an imprint on Los Angeles history that cannot be overstated. Indeed, it's difficult to conceive 20th-century Los Angeles without them. More information about the Watson family legacy can be found online at the Watson Family Photographic Archive; Delmar's L.A. Times obituary; and from the L.A. Times' article collections, "Star Shines Brightly for Hollywood's First Family". Cf. also Patt Morrison, "Preserving L.A.'s Family Album," Los Angeles Times Magazine (September 6, 1998), p. 11.
Delmar, his brother Coy, Jr., and the rest of the Watson brothers were colleagues of George Lacks, and much loved by all of us in the Lacks family. As kids, we couldn't wait until the next visit with "Uncle Delmar" and his beautiful wife Mary Ann. He would regale us with an effortless and endless stream of humor, and some fine puns too. (At one visit, for instance, we all heard the familiar peals of the music box on an ice cream truck that was cruising down our street in North Hollywood. Without wasting a nanosecond, Delmar exclaimed, "Hey, let's all tip over his truck, and see if he's in a Good Humor!") The friendship shared by Delmar and George is amply chronicled in several of the photos that you see in this section. The two were of like minds concerning the enterprise of photography. Both believed that while technical excellence is a necessary condition for shooting good photos, it is not a sufficient one: a good photograph also has to tell a story. I believe that the photos presented here fulfill that condition admirably.
In March 1999 I paid a visit to Delmar at his photo archive in Hollywood. By that time he was 72, and I add with a good deal of remorse that I had not seen him in nearly 40 years. I found him to be more sober-minded than at any point I can recall from our childhood days with him. As he graciously presented me with gifts of photos, and xerographs of photos that he couldn't part with, he reflected sadly upon his two marriages, both of which ended unhappily. He swore he would never marry again; "I learned my lesson, believe me," he said, with considerable conviction ringing in his voice. So I was rather stunned to discover that just three years later, in his mid-70s, he married once more, to his third wife Antoinette. This was to be the last time I ever visited with Delmar. I remain eternally grateful for that visit, and for his important contributions to this website.