There’s no stopping Norman Lerner. At 83 years of age, he is just too busy having new ideas and cultivating the creative seeds he planted years ago. He doesn’t have any time for Backgammon or Parcheesi, and you’ll not find him anywhere but in his studio if he has anything to do with it. These days Lerner is staying in the present moment. He carries a sketchbook and a camera, creating his art constantly. The only time he is not creating is when he’s sleeping. And after what seems to be many lifetimes lived by one man alone, there is a lot more to be done, he would say.
During the 1950s through the 1970s, Norman Lerner worked with several top New York magazines. He and his wife, Ina, lived on Madison Avenue and 68th, and that’s where he had his studio.
“We were a part of the city. When I left the studio, I left with my camera. So it literally became an extension of myself.” His series New York Moments tells this story of life in New York during a beautifully rich time.It’s the memory of his bright energy and open-minded perspective I hope to always retain. With a debonair smile, charm twinkling from his eyes, and a song that seems to swirl about him when he speaks about his love for photography, for his wife, and for tai chi, Lerner is intoxicating. And his photographs are too.
Coming from the camera of lifelong photographer Norman Lerner, ordinary scenes have something important to show us. The question is: how does he do it?
“I think I have been very fortunate in the sense that my interests have been so very diverse, which has enabled me to explore different aspects of life using photography as that vehicle to explore literally and intellectually these varied places. How many photographers can say that they lived in the Georgia Okefenokee Swamp photographing alligators, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins, and then right after that doing a lingerie spread for Glamour magazine, then posing as a model for a fashion spread for Rudder magazine, then doing a white-water assignment shooting rapids on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, then right after that shooting a series for St. Mary’s fashion line, and so on.”
He is also professor emeritus of California Polytechnic State University, and that has characterized much of his life. His work has hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, in addition to exhibits throughout the country.
“Some artists are satisfied with working in one genre for all of their lives. Others keep moving on. This reminds me of a question posed to Picasso as to why he moved from a literal figurative style in his early years to a more abstract style later on. His reply was that when you have finished the appetizer you then go to the entrée and so on.”
His life path is one of fearlessness. He wasn’t afraid to change his course while tenured or as CEO at the height of his company’s success. He always turned to his own personal creative vision and began by saying to himself, “that’s enough” and then moving onward.
Currently, Lerner’s projects are floral still lifes, motion studies, and a series of passengers and drivers. After a lifetime of creating breathtaking images, Norman Lerner is still chasing shadows. More of his work can be seen at www.normanlerner.com.