One Hell of An Eye
The Official Blog of Mike Salisbury
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And under his orange knit cap, in his pink v-neck cashmere sweater over turquoise slacks, taking off gold-rimmed shades, I could see that he certainly was.

He invited me into the rented pastel stucco house in Palm Springs, saying he had to put the English bulldog under his arm into the dog’s own temperature-controlled room. “Bulldogs have sinus problems,” Truman said.  “The air conditioning in here is not good for him.”  “Bulldog Truman…” he said. “I was given the nickname Bulldog at about age seven.”

Then we spent half the day arranging the patio furniture and flower pots because he wanted me to take his picture like the photograph of him for his first book which made the The New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for nine weeks.

“The famous photograph: Harold Halma’s picture on the dust jacket of Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) caused as much comment and controversy as the prose inside. “

–Gerald Clarke, Capote: A Biography

1947 Harold Halma.  Truman said: "Considered a smart-ass move by a much too young writer."

1947, photo by Harold Halma. Truman said: "Considered a smart-ass move by a much too young writer."

Truman said he had directed the Harold Halma photograph — which showed a reclining, big-eyed Capote gazing fiercely into the camera — and he wanted to recreate that pose.

In 1952, Henri Cartier-Bresson published his book Images à la Sauvette (The Decisive Moment). In the preface, Cartier-Bresson wrote:  “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment,” adding:  “Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact.”

Truman Capote, 1947 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

Truman Capote, 1947 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

Cartier-Bresson had also taken a famous photograph of Truman, which, to me, captured the fact of Capote much more so than the Harold Halma photograph Truman staged.

That is the decisive moment I wanted to record.  This is that picture:

Truman Capote, Palm Springs, California, 1970; photo by Mike Salisbury

Truman Capote, Palm Springs, California, 1970; photo by Mike Salisbury

* * * * * * * * * * *


Bresson said that the essence of his art was “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event, as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”  Too often, the “significance” feels platitudinous, even as its expression dazzles.  Robert Frank, whose book “The Americans” (1958) treated subjects akin to many in the older photographer’s work, put it harshly but justly: “He traveled all over the goddamned world, and you never felt that he was moved by something that was happening other than the beauty of it, or just the composition.”      –from Kenneth R. Anderson

You are still my hero, M – and one of the best designers and creative people in the world – keep up the great work – your site is very rich and very cool. dc

That’s a great shot. He seems vulnerable, sad and almost having a religious moment to me.  Maybe the hand on his chest.  He looks to be coming to terms with his immortality.  I get all that in an instant.  Nelson Q.

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7 Responses to ““Hello, I Am Truman Capote.””

  • Alan Metter Says:

    Great picture, Mike. He’s wearing his life on his face, trying to hold his heart in. Sad eyed lady of the lowlands.

    admin Reply:

    thanks alan. best discription yet.

  • Anonymous Says:

    What a great resource!

  • ken markman Says:

    “wow,” what a great shot. Shooting has nothing to do with photography any more than luck or the magnetism of the subject or the moment.
    Photography, like all great art is somewhat planned; a right place, right time vortex. Along the way to its destination, art finds imagination, inspiration meeting opportunity and instantaneous brilliance that is at once unexpected and unknowing.
    Enjoy it when it arrives; it is not planned. It’s life.

    Ken Markman

  • Michele Zwillinger Says:

    Your prose is as engaging as your photos. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jocelyn Kosakowski Says:

    OK cool to see- interesting comments are always welcome! See yas.

  • asandra Says:

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article