Morris Warman - the "Karsh of Queens" as he is called - made riveting photographs of world leaders like President John F. Kennedy, of prizewinning
novelists like Ernest Hemingway and dance greats like Martha Graham. But ask him his all-time favorite photo, and he doesn't lose a beat. "That's the
one I took of my son Ritchie just after he had a double hernia operation at Mount Sinai." His son was 3 years old at the time.
"The lighting in his hospital room was terrific that day," said Warman, his fatherly pride showing. The black-and-white photo won a New York Press
Photographers Association contest in 1959. Warman was awarded the Society of Silurians first lifetime achievement award in photojournalism at
the Players Club, The Silurians bill themselves as the oldest press club in America. It was founded in 1924 by several newspapermen and the odd
name reflects its original intention to limit membership to veteran newspapermen and women. Warman was delighted about getting the award, and so
was his wife, Dorothy.
Awards have come easily to this great photographer, who sold his first picture to the Bayonne Times at the age of 10. His family lived in the New
Jersey town, and Warman, who was taught by his father how to handle a camera, took a heartbreaking picture of a family being evicted from their
home during the Depression.
Warman and I were colleagues at the New York Herald Tribune, which folded in 1966. It was devastating, but not surprising. John Hay Whitney,
former ambassador to Great Britain, whose sister Joan Whitney Payson once owned the New York Mets, had tired of a yearly cash outflow of millions of
The Warmans lived in Forest Hills for years. He worked for the "Trib" for a quarter of a century, and his brother Manny was director of photography
for Columbia University for nearly four decades. In his great 1986 book on the New York Herald Tribune, "The Paper,"
Pulitzer prizewinning writer Richard Kluger wrote that "Morris Warman is the best portraitist in U.S. daily journalism." That's telling it like it is. His work
has been shown in galleries around the country. One show, "Portraits of the Famous," was shown at the last World's Fair in Queens, and even his
colleagues agreed that the man who was also known as "No Bulb" Warman, for his refusal to use a flash with his 4x5 Speed Graphic in order to get a
more dramatic picture, was a master at the art of portrait photography.
Warman's work has appeared in Life, Time and New York magazines, and once you have seen them - there's bodybuilder Charles Atlas, actress Ingrid
Bergman, singer Marian Anderson and the inimitable Winston Churchill trying on a homburg - you won't forget them easily.
I often drew Warman as the photographer accompanying me on an assignment. The Trib had a staff of outstanding photographers including Pultizer
prizewinner Nat Fein, who took a picture of the stricken Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium saying farewell to his fans. Warman sometimes showed up at a
pub called Bleeck's, a onetime speakeasy on West 40th Street alongside the Trib. He admits he liked a taste now and then, but the waiters warned him
that if he didn't stop drinking he'd wind up a penniless bum "like those reporters who have to give their paychecks over every week to pay their bar
Warman got the "Karsh of Queens" tag from Newsday editor Warren Berry, then at the Trib. Yousef Karsh was a famous photographer who, like
Warman, specialized in portraits of the famous. One day, Warman was told to go to a midtown hotel to take a picture of the master. At the right
moment, he said, "Mr. Karsh, I am Morris Warman of the New York Herald Tribune. May I take your picture?" Karsh agreed, but when Warman led him
to a dark corridor, he wanted to back out. "Why, you can't take a picture here and you know it," he told Warman. But Warman convinced Karsh he could
do it and the next day Warman sent along the picture. "I got a gracious note from him," Warman said. I am looking at some of Warman's photos as I
write this. Playwright Arthur Miller, poet Carl Sandberg, Greenwich Village poet E.E. Cummings, and the one he treasures: his son looking pensive after
his operation. "For years my son didn't like that picture," Warman said. "But as he grew older, he came to enjoy it as we still do."
A few years ago I went with Warman to a Manhattan gallery to view about two dozen of his photos taken between 1940 and 1960. Edith Piaf, Lyndon
Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Frost and William Faulkner ... It was history frozen in time by a master, who was, and still is, a great talent and a
Written By Dennis Duggan, former Newsday Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.