Perhaps the best perspective on Arnold Newman, the world-renowned American portraitist, was offered by the late Carl Sandburg. "Hey, hey," remarked Sandburg, who wrote an unpublished biography of Newman, "this here Newman guy with his camera has been everywhere and seen everybody." Sandburg made that observation in 1962. The latest somebody to join everybody is Howard Cosell, whom Newman photographed for this week's cover.
Over his 45-year career five volumes of Newman photographs have been published, and his work hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chicago Art Institute and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. He is best known for his portraits of artists, musicians, scientists and industrialists, not to mention presidents and kings. Newman likes to juxtapose his subjects with the backgrounds and implements of their work. "I don't pose people," he says. "I just let them fall into positions that are natural to them."
Cosell, not always an easy subject for photographers, says, "I've always found it easier to sit in front of a TV camera than a still camera. But then I met Arnold Newman. He's a genius. He has a sense of purpose, a sense of perspective. Tell him I miss him." Igor Stravinsky once told Newman, "You have made me famous." But former President Lyndon Johnson was not quite so gracious. After contemplating his official White House portrait, L.B.J. fumed, "Goddam it. [Newman's signature] is bigger than me."
Senior Writer Frank Deford, who wrote the Cosell story (page 66), says, "Newman has captured the nuances of expression that I couldn't possibly have put into words." Newman had never met Cosell before he was commissioned by SI. But he was delighted by the assignment. A sports fan and longtime Cosell admirer who watches ABC's Monday Night Football whenever he can—"Howard's the only guy on TV who says what he thinks," he says—Newman shot his cover of Cosell during a two-hour session in early July at his Manhattan studio. "Howard insulted everyone," says Newman. "So I insulted him right back." They got along famously. Later, Newman visited the Cosells at their Long Island summer home, where he took the photograph that opens Deford's article. "His wife, Emmy, made sandwiches," Newman says. "It was a wonderful day."
Newman and Cosell discovered they have much in common. They are the same age (65), they grew up in Northeastern cities during the Depression, they are devoted family men who still hold hands with their wives after more than 30 years of marriage, and they share a fondness for cigars. "People who've made it and have been there a long time have no ego problems," says Newman. "If anything, Howard and I are both insecure because we don't ever think we're good enough."
If that were true, Cosell would not be on our cover, and Newman might still be photographing babies at Lit Brothers' department store in Philadelphia, where he began his career.
NEWMAN: PRESIDENTS, KINGS AND COSELL