CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Category — Howard Greenberg

Howard Greenberg: Capturing The Moment

In black and white, our present and the past are captured on a plain sheet of paper. Swirls of nostalgias, memories, and moments are all blended into a mixture of life in a photograph. Last Tuesday, I attended a seminar called “Meeting the Artist” at Macaulay Honors College. From there, Howard Greenberg, a freelance photographer and an owner of the famous photo gallery in Manhattan, opened my eyes to see the new world of photography. From his passionate speech, I was able to see how meaningful my life can be by pursuing my own dreams.

Howard Greenberg’s life has been dramatically changed since he took his first look of the world through the lens. With the rhythmic shutter sounds made by thousands of snapshots that he has taken in his life, he was constantly driven by his own motivation and passion. “I was hungry,” he said. Because he was hungry, he did not hesitate when the time of making decisions came. After his first encounter with photography, Mr. Greenberg instantly changed his dream to become a photographer. After finding his own interest in business, he decided to run a photo gallery. His life was full of risks, but he was a man of action. I was inspired by his determination and confidence the most.

I always thought photography was obscure. Whenever my photographer friends started to talk about angles, light exposure, and contrast, I simply wanted to escape from these professional, heavy terms. I was more drawn to painting because I thought it allowed me to directly convey my thought and express my imagination or fantasy on canvas. From that perspective, photography had a limit: I had to use existing objects, people and places to express my own self and thoughts. However, Mr. Greenberg redefined and even broke my initial definition of photography.  While I was hearing all the behind stories about each photograph that he brought, I felt taking a photo means more than just documenting an idea or a moment. Through each person’s facial expression, the contrast of light and irony of the setting, an excellent photograph can make us relive that very moment in our lives. “Capturing the moment, that’s all what it is, really.” After listening to Mr. Greenberg’s handy tip, now photography isn’t that intimidating to me. To be honest with you, I’m little hungry to learn more about it.

September 17, 2010   No Comments

The Butterfly Effect

Howard Greenberg, who was once a student studying psychology, was one of the many people who were influenced by the emergence of photography. He had a few friends who were involved in it and they convinced him to join the circle. His parents brought him his first camera from Japan and he began snapping away.

Before cameras, when one stumbled across something of genuine beauty, he or she would stop and stare, admiring it until it was time to move on. If one was a skilled artist, he or she would perhaps dedicate months, if not years, to capturing the sight. Still photography changed the way artists would capture the world and the way people began to see it. Suddenly, beautiful scenes became a part of history through film.

The way Howard Greenberg passionately talked about his career as a gallery curator revealed how much he really loved what he did. The stories he told us about the photographs and their history wasn’t foreign to me – I am very passionate about photography myself and I could relate to much of what he said. What shocked me the most was how suddenly his life turned around – from the medical world to the world of photography.

Listening to Mr. Greenberg speak about his life and how he was pulled into the world of photography made me realize how we’re all only a picture, painting, book, or movie away from changing our entire career path and understand what we really want to do in life. I, personally, relate to his story quite a bit because just yesterday I decided to change my major from finance to engineering – all because of one story I read on the internet. The butterfly effect: how a butterfly can flap its wings at one end of an open field and cause a storm on the other side due to wind exponentiation.

September 16, 2010   No Comments


This post is, obviously, about Howard Greenberg, and his successes in his chosen field of photography. Instead of writing a summary about his achievements and résumé, though, I would like to focus on what stood out to me the most during his talk: his utter enthusiasm.

Sure, Howard Greenberg has over 20,000 photos in his collection—and sure, he is largely responsible for the beginning of marketing in the world of photography—but it seems that to him, what means the most is to be around what he loves. He said it himself: “Follow the dream; do what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to do.” But what makes that statement so important, to students like us just beginning to find our way? The answer is this: many hear this kind of “inspirational saying” from friends, family, teachers—but in this case, it was a complete stranger whose reality is a true embodiment of that dream. To see someone as successful as Howard Greenberg being able to attribute his accomplishments largely to enthusiasm gives hope that the advice we so often hear can be an attainable reality. Take, for example, his story behind the photo “Smoke and Veil.” This photo brought him considerable success, even though it was not his own work—because the person who actually took the shot saw that Greenberg was “hungry” to be a part of the art that brought him so much joy.  Through his own experiences, Howard Greenberg was able to reach a realization that changed his life forever: no matter the confines that one feels placed around them (by friends, family, personal expectations, and society as a whole) it may be one moment that will change your life forever–and that you should grab hold of that moment with everything you have and never let go.

As Howard Greenberg gave us a quick snapshot of his life, I was able to glimpse the sheer joy and love within the frame—and I now have even further desire to pursue my dream as wholeheartedly as he pursued his.

September 16, 2010   No Comments

‘Real’ Photography

Before meeting Howard Greenberg, my concept of photography was  limited to merely my family’s red point-and-shoot Kodak digital camera; yet as I left in search of a bus stop on Tuesday night, I realized that my knowledge of the art hadn’t increased as much as I  thought it would, rather it was my appreciation of it that certainly did.

If anything that night caught my attention the most, it was Mr. Greenberg’s explanation of his enjoyment of ‘historical photography.’ Maybe it was the whole process, or labor that the photographers back in the day put into printing their work, but one cannot help but to admire the genuine effort filled procedure that went into each initial print and final product. Mr. Greenberg is of course not the only dealer or collector of such art, but his enthusiasm and love for his work are both admirable, and forced me to realize that the photographs surrounding the room all shared a single quality: they were all real.

In an age in which any part of a photo can be photo-shopped, cropped, re-colored, re-sized, or removed, it is comforting to find fantastic photographs that are authentic and were no doubt painstakingly planned and produced from start to finish by the photographers themselves.

September 16, 2010   No Comments


So, the other day, I met a man that could only possibly be described as a “flea market, wild west shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy.” He took the words right out of my mouth. His name was Howard Greenberg, a self-made, motivated beyond belief good-old-Brooklyn guy who simply realized what it was worth to follow his passion.

One thing he said jumped out at me, because it was absolutely relevant to something I’ve been worried about lately: “If you mean it, you can make a living out of something you love, instead of something you are supposed to.” Speaking to a group of business school students, I’m surprised that idea wasn’t totally lost upon us all.

It wasn’t. I was captivated from the second he opened his mouth. His friendly, almost neighborly attitude and clear appreciation for his work make his already interesting anecdotes a delight to listen to. I have a habit of taking very special interest in certain people, and have a mental collection of fascinating individuals – and Howard just became one of them. He has so much to offer, and is willing to do so; he has stories that are just waiting to be told, some released through his prints, and others by pure interaction.

I was chock-full of questions to ask. I want to know his story. Of course we caught a glimpse, a summary of his achievements with a few quirky anecdotes in between.

But I still wonder what his photography is like, and what each picture means to him, and how this print and that saturation and this enlargement change the dynamic of this and this and so on. I hope to see him at the gallery soon – after class, I ignored all my friends playfully whispering “loser” and making signs of an L on their foreheads and walked up to meet Mr. Greenberg.

I had a great chat with him, and found out how truly friendly he was. I told him how I was more than eager to intern for him just to be around such an environment as the one he has created for himself and over 100 other artists that he represents. I think it’s going to be one of the greatest choices I will ever make. Regardless, this is not the last I will see of Howard Greenberg.

September 16, 2010   1 Comment

Howard Greenberg

After a quick Blackberry Google search, I was on the train ride toward Macaulay Honors College, excited to hear the story of Howard Greenberg the photographer. I sat there hoping to be interested and engaged, but he ended up relating to me on a much more personal level. When he spoke about being a Psychology major who opted out of Grad school to pursue his passion for Photography, I reflected on my own life and where i’m going. I chose a Psychology major because I saw it as the “lesser of the evils,” but I haven’t yet found my “thing,” my passion, something I would be happy to do for the rest of my life. I was astounded by how easy it seemed for him to find what he loved and drop everything else to make a living out of that.

A few things about the discussion specifically stuck out in my mind. I admire that Mr. Greenberg mainly sticks to mid-century photographs, being well aware that there is a lot more money in modern style photography. The unique technique he uses of combining photographs in the dark room to make pictures that are impossible in nature shows me that there is a lot more to photography than pointing and shooting with your fancy camera. Mr. Greenberg even mentioned that it’s not about the equipment at all, an iPhone can take a high quality picture but it’s all about the vision behind it. The Meet the Artist discussion gave me a new perspective of Photography as an art. I don’t think that this is my passion but I’ve learned that whenever that epiphany comes to me and I find what I love, I have an obligation to follow it.

September 16, 2010   No Comments

Howard Greenberg Reaction

I’m usually critical of any sentence that begins with “Following the dream,” but when Howard Greenberg continued to explain that doing so “gives you that not so common feeling of good fortune and thankfulness,” I was instead inspired. People rarely recognize their own good luck. If they do, whether it was earned drudgingly or serendipitously, giving thanks has continued up a path of infrequency.

Another interesting subject Greenberg touched on was the continual evolution of photography. He would be considered a sort of “old world” photographer having learned and prospered during an age of film and dark rooms. Being a well-established connoisseur of the field in a contemporary market must be awkward at times. He differentiated to us between what he considered the old craft and vision at the heart of photography’s beginnings and modern, conceptual photography, Greenberg described current-day photography as a “documentation of an idea.” Which sounded like a careful way of expressing his lack of appreciation for at what photography has become.

Nevertheless it was lovely to be in the presence of someone who so clearly knows and can explicate his art. Greenberg is a portrait of success not only because of his talent but also because of his attitude.

September 16, 2010   No Comments

The Clash between Old and New

I entered the small, yet cozy room with bated breath, eager to hear about the views of photographer who began his journey when the industry truly hit it’s peak. As somewhat of a photography buff myself, and two best friends who would give their limbs right and left for new cameras, lenses, film, hot-shoes, etc, I have been to my fair share of contemporary photography exhibits.

The photographic movement in the 1970s was a phenomenal one, filled with fresh new ideas and originality. As Howard Greenberg said, photographers traded their images right and left, and gave a whole new standard to the conceptualization of a photograph. Photographs of the 1970s were about impact; movement; capturing a dazzling piece of history and preserving it forever.

I was quite shocked and somewhat disappointed then, that Howard Greenberg no longer looked for these elements in the photographs he decided to show. He chooses his pieces based on the photographer. He let us know that he was interested in older works that had a background because of who they were photographed by. When I questioned him about this further after the presentation, he told me straight out that, for him, he was not interested in a photograph if it not was not taken by someone historically significant.

I thanked him for the informative presentation, but I left feeling somewhat disillusioned. In my opinion, the most important thing about photography is the actual subject matter and technique of the picture, not who shot it. Although I learned a lot of fascinating information about some famous photographers, I would have liked to know more about the pieces themselves. Perhaps this is the difference between classical and contemporary photograph that Greenberg kept referring to; however, I feel that the photography movement today, as opposed to that of ten or twenty years ago, is closer to that of the 1970s; radical, experimental, and based on what you know, not who.

September 16, 2010   No Comments

The Mind Behind the Photo

One thing that struck me when I walked into the seminar room at the Macaulay building yesterday was the relaxed atmosphere of the space. Rather than delivering a stiff account of his life and work, Howard Greenberg’s tone was friendly and conversational. I could see that students were listening to him out of interest rather than just politeness. I have been to talks before where the speaker has not been able to hold my attention and I have often attributed this to the fact that I am not interested in the subject. Photography is yet another subject that has never been of real interest to me, yet I found myself engaged in everything Greenberg was saying. His obvious passion and love for photography drew in everyone in the room. I liked that Greenberg made the photographs he had displayed more personal by revealing the stories behind them. He especially interested me in the photograph, “American Girl in Italy,” to the point of encouraging me to look up the photographer, Ruth Orkin, when I got home. Greenberg told us how Orkin had set up the photograph, by telling her friend to walk past a group of Italian men. She had an idea of the scene this encounter would create and thus succeeded in capturing what would be the most renowned image of her career. Though taking a good photo isn’t especially hard, as Greenberg himself said, this story made me realize that a true photographer needs a deep understanding of his or her subject in order to capture a meaningful image. Having recently been to Italy, I recognized that Orkin really had a feel for the culture and personality of Italy which was necessary in order to produce such a rich and expressive image. Greenberg’s talk taught me several new things about a subject I knew little of, but most importantly in my eyes, it gave me a greater appreciation for photography and the creativity and deliberation that lies behind each image.

September 16, 2010   No Comments

Making a Life out of What You Love

“Life is something that happens to you while you’re living it.” That is how Howard Greenberg started his presentation on Tuesday night. These words are an inspiration in themselves. It gives you the feeling of comfort and satisfaction in the life you’re living. That statement is able to depict the life that Greenberg led. His life and business of work came upon him while he was just living life. It was unexpected, yet gratifying.

Howard Greenberg never intended on making a career out of photography and art. He initially went to school to become a psychologist. That’s what he was planning on doing with his life until the Vietnam War got in the way of him going to grad school. He didn’t realize his true passion for photography until his mother’s friend got him a camera while in Japan. Howard knew he “liked” photography at the time but it wasn’t until he started using the camera and taking various and multiple amounts of pictures where he realized that he actually “loved” it.

Howard Greenberg says how his love of photography, the history of it all, and also the need to make a living is what got him into the business of running a photo gallery. He mentioned how just “trying” to make it was all worth it to him. Whether he could actually make it big or not didn’t really concern him at the time. The aspect of at least attempting to follow his dream made it worthwhile. Luckily for him, he did make it big, owning a well-known photo gallery in New York City, and also being one the top photography dealers in the world.

Greenberg is a big fan on following your dream and from personal experience, he encourages all of us to “make a living out of what you love, rather than what you think you’re supposed to do.” He is an inspiration to me because he accidentally fell in love with photography and as of right now I’m not sure what I love… But now I am at least hopeful that I can be fortunate enough to stumble upon that certain something at some point, just as Greenberg did. And when I do find that certain something, I will be genuine about it because Greenberg said that nothing works better than enthusiasm. When you love what you do and you’re excited about it, the finishing product will always have a good outcome.

September 16, 2010   No Comments