Remembering Arnold Drapkin
We’ve lost another legend. Arnold Drapkin passed away last month. Arnold was with Time Magazine for almost forty years. He was the head of their photo department for the last thirteen or those years. He was ninety years old.
As we move further away from the so-called Golden Age of Photojournalism this is bound to happen.
Thankfully, several of us old timers got together to celebrate his birthday with him down in Boca Raton this spring. It was a joyful experience. When Arnold got up to speak, we thought he’d go for five minutes or so. He ended up doing about ninety, one for every year, and the stories he shared were absolutely priceless.
Some were well known, like the one about the Reagan/Gorbachev summit in Iceland.
In preparation for covering the summit, Arnold purchased the use of both (and there were only two) of the film scanners in the entire country. He also kept a lab open over the weekend to develop the Time photographer’s film if needed. The summit was scheduled to be done before the magazine deadlines. Arnold made these investments just to have a plan in place in case the summit went longer, and it did.
His investment paid off in a big way when Time’s cover hit the newsstands Monday morning showing the two world leaders leaving the summit without an agreement. I don’t remember what Newsweek’s cover was that week, and nobody else does either.
That week, Time’s sales team capitalized on the opportunity that Arnold gave them and got busy gaining new customers at Newsweek’s expense.
Just to give you an idea of how logistics worked in the film era. The Time and Newsweek photographers left Reykjavik Sunday morning on the exact same flight. Newsweek’s team was hand-carrying their film, while the coverage from Time’s team was already on the printing press.
Another story, one that I had never heard, happened as Arnold was retiring from the magazine.
Upon hearing the news that he was leaving, Air France invited Arnold to lunch. He had no idea why, so during the very expensive lunch, he asked them. It seems that Arnold had set a record in buying more tickets on the Concord than…