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Photographs Tell Story of Decades-Long Romance

CHICAGO -- Ninety-one-year-old Art Shay has been telling stories with his camera for 60 years. Working mostly for LIFE Magazine, he captured an amazing roster of subjects, from Kennedy to Ali; from Eleanor Roosevelt to Elizabeth Taylor.

CHICAGO -- Ninety-one-year-old Art Shay has been telling stories with his camera for 60 years. Working mostly for LIFE Magazine, he captured an amazing roster of subjects, from Kennedy to Ali; from Eleanor Roosevelt to Elizabeth Taylor. 

  But page through the thousands of stills and one story stands out. Art’s focus was often squarely on Florence, his wife. Catching her in private moments or at public events, his Leica had a tendency to locate her.

Asked if Florence would ever say, “Would you put that camera away, for God’s sake?” Shay says, “Yes, many times.”

 

art-shay.jpg
Art Shay
 CBS NEWS
  “And, you know, the litany of all true photographers is, ‘Just one more,’” he laughs. “A photograph is a biography of a moment.”

Strung together, they chart a lifetime.

The photos of their love story are now on display in an exhibition co-presented by the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Library at Columbia College Chicago. The exhibit is called “My Florence,” a tribute to their 67 years of marriage.

Shay says it makes him feel closer to Florence. He says the last picture he took of her that is featured in the show was captured four weeks before she died. 

florence-jump.jpg
The first photo Art Shay took of Florence.
 ART SHAY
 Florence would have been 92 on Valentine’s Day.

Shay says that when she got sick, “I assigned myself to do her life as I remembered it -- with the joy, the happiness and only a touch -- a touch of her sickness.”

Florence passed away from cancer in August 2012. Art says gathering the photos for the show has helped him heal, though not entirely. 

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Art Shay's favorite photo of Florence.
 ART SHAY
  “It’s very hard to do,” Art says tearfully as he looks at one of the photos. “She did like this picture a lot.”

“Florence did say, ‘Don’t cry for me when the time comes, because I had a wonderful life,’” he says. “And she did. And we did.”

The evidence is right there in the pictures.

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