A Storied Photographer Turns 95

When you’ve lived for almost a century, traditional birthday celebrations can seem somewhat redundant. So in Phil Stern’s case, he is marking his 95th turn around the make-a-wish corner by gifting someone else. Stern, who will officially mark his latest birthday in Los Angeles tomorrow, has donated prints of 95 of his iconic shots to the Veterans Home of California.

From a report in Variety by Shelli Weinstein:

As a teen, Stern had worked as an apprentice in a New York photo studio and as a local police photographer, but got his baptism of fire, quite literally, at age 21, when he became a combat photographer in Darby’s Rangers during World War II, after convincing Colonel William O. Darby to allow him to join. Stern was decorated with a Purple Heart for his services…

After the war, Stern contributed photo essays to Life magazine on post-war social rehabilitation. He also found himself in Hollywood, snapping shots of celebrities and working as a still cameraman on films such as Guys and Dolls and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The now wheelchair-bound Stern told Weinstein that the one celebrity he never got to photograph that he wishes had was Charlie Chaplin.

A special celebration and unveiling of the donated prints is scheduled for this weekend. Director Brett Ratner and Gisele Schmidt, from Fahey/Klein Gallery, will speak; also on display will be some of the photos taken by Stern of his fellow Veterans Home residents. A trailer will be shown for the in-production documentary Phil Stern: Eyewitness; another documentary, made last year in Italy – Phil Stern: Sicily 1943, The War and Soul – will also be shared.

And as if all this weren’t enough, Johnny Vana and the Big Band Alumni will also perform. Happy Birthday, Mr. Stern!

[Photo of Stern with Michael Jackson, via: Facebook]

Previously on FishbowlNY:
94-Year-Old San Francisco Chronicle Science Editor Still Going Strong
LAUSD Teacher Retires… At Age 94