British-born photographer John Stewart is now 95 and living in the south of France. He still takes pictures, relying on a rare pigment-based developing technique.
On behalf of the BBC, Hugh Schofield (pictured) recently had lunch with Stewart and was regaled with one stupendous anecdote after another:
“I was outside the [Henri] Matisse chapel in [St. Paul de] Vence at its inauguration, and another photographer was there,” Stewart recalls. “We started talking and he asked where I got my stuff developed.”
“I said I would take it to the drugstore round the corner in New York. ‘Not a good idea,’ he said. ‘Take it to this place in Paris and say I sent you.'”
“‘And what is your name?'” I asked.
“‘Henri Cartier-Bresson!’ The most famous photographer in France! After that I had no choice. It was photography or nothing!”
Stewart spent part of his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, in New York. He was also enlisted as Muhammad Ali’s personal photographer and earlier, during World War II, was taken prisoner by the Japanese and held for three and a half years in a brutal internment camp. Stewart’s recollections of how and why he survived are worth a thousand pictures.
Speaking of which, the BBC magazine article includes several Stewart photos, including the famous one he took of the aforementioned Matisse in bed in 1951. Read-bookmark the full article here.
Photo via: @SchofieldHugh