The Many Views of Betty Freeman

The Many Views of Betty Freeman


Betty Freeman with Ansel Adams
in Carmel CA, July 1976
Photo courtesy Betty Freeman

Betty Freeman with John Harbison and Arvo Pärt
in Berlin, November 15, 1990
Photo by Rosemary Harbison, courtesy Betty Freeman

FRANK J. OTERI: You have done so many remarkable photos of composers.

BETTY FREEMAN: Outside of grandchildren, I photograph almost exclusively composers because I consider them the most important people in the world, much more important than any politician.

FRANK J. OTERI: (laughs) That’s great. When did you start doing photography?

BETTY FREEMAN: 1972, when I started making the Partch film…

FRANK J. OTERI: The Dreamer That Remains

BETTY FREEMAN: Then I studied twice with Ansel Adams at his school. And later with Fred Picker for a week in Vermont, and then, I forget the name, I studied two weeks in Italy with a color photographer, I forgot his name.

FRANK J. OTERI: What was it like working with Ansel Adams?

BETTY FREEMAN: In one session during the two weeks he took the class of 14 into his darkroom, and he asked everybody to bring a negative. So everybody brought in a negative. He choose one from one of the students, of a father, mother and a child sitting on the grass in front of a bush. And for the next 4 hours, he proceeded to print just that one negative, and I learned from watching, what it means to be a great printer and photographer. He went over, and over, always with big paper 16 by 20, dodging and burning and trying this and trying this and different developers. Finally after 4 hours he came up with a print he liked.


BETTY FREEMAN: That lesson stayed with me for the rest of my life. Attention to detail.

FRANK J. OTERI: Well, I love the photographs of yours that I’ve seen. They have a liveliness to them that’s rare in photos of composers. You bring their inner souls to life,.

BETTY FREEMAN: Oh, thank you. And the more I like their music the better the photograph.

FRANK J. OTERI: I bet that’s true.

BETTY FREEMAN: It is true. It’s strange the camera is not a mechanical tool. Very strange. It’s an extension…

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