Rocky Mountain News Archive - Ralph Morse at GALLERY M

December 13, 2002 : Denver

Without it, alumnus of LIFE says you're just 'taking pictures'

December 13, 2002

Do your homework.

Sure, people in every profession are wise to keep that motto in mind. But in the world of the photojournalist, knowledge is in the mix with a good eye and a little luck.

And so it makes sense that Ralph Morse repeats that phrase in a conversation. Morse, a LIFE magazine photographer for 30 years, shifted to other publications when LIFE ceased in 1972. The magazine returned, but by then Morse had moved on; he retired in 1988 and sold his equipment, but recently began working with a digital camera.

In a selection of dozens of prints at Gallery M, Morse's credo comes through loud and clear, whether the subject is wartime Europe, sports - including a rare 1948 Cibachrome view of Babe Ruth in uniform - or the birth of the American space program.

"You need to have the information of a news event," Morse said from his home in Florida. "To learn something about the subject."

Without that homework - he spent time in a morgue learning anatomy before an assignment dealing with heart surgery - "you're taking pictures, not photographs."

The works in "History Captured," up through Jan. 31, have two things in common. Each tells a story, from the jittery energy of bowling pins skittering apart at the end of an alley, to the formality of a scientist testing sound properties in a dramatically constructed chamber. And each illustrates strong composition, in the placement of his subject and in his authority in capturing a place or person.

Morse was tapped to work for LIFE when he was working for a photo agency in which Alfred Eisenstaedt was a partner. "He told them, 'I've got a young brat over here you've got to meet.' "

The images at Gallery M date back to the mid-1940s but are new prints from negatives held in the LIFE archives. Morse says he did not help in the selection. (A photograph by Morse of John Glenn's more recent trip into space is not included because of the difficulty in getting permission to show it.)

But the impact of LIFE's near-ownership of the early astronauts has remained with Morse, who was assigned to shadow Glenn during the young space program. Morse's most recent project is a book about his career. Working title: The Eighth Astronaut...

...History Captured

" What: Photographs by Ralph Morse

" Where: Gallery M, 2830 E. Third Ave.

" When: Through Jan. 31

" Information: (303) 331-8400

Mary Voelz Chandler is the art and architecture critic. (303) 892-2677


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