Light, background and context help a photographer frame his subjects, says Michael Mauney, 
Submitted photo
Light, background and context help a photographer frame his subjects, says Michael Mauney, Submitted photo

A photographic retrospective featuring the work of Michael Mauney, retired photographer for LIFE and People magazines, was the topic for the virtual Levy Lecture presented on July 14. Mr. Mauney, a former resident of Evanston, narrated the slides and shared with the 300+ attendees what was going through his mind while he was setting up each shot. It was a personal and candid look back on his career, followed by questions from the crowd.

The slideshow started with the 1968 presidential campaign. Photos of candidates Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace filled the screen.

Mr. Mauney pointed out specific details that made a picture memorable or especially good: expressions of people in the crowd, how the subject was framed, or how natural light added a particular effect he was seeking.

He was always on the lookout for a “cover-worthy” shot, and he showed several examples of photos that became covers, as well as a few of those that could have been but were not selected.

There were celebrities to admire from television, movies, country music, sports and social services organizations, as well as everyday people from all walks of life who worked hard to help their communities.

There were photographs of authors James A. Michener in Texas and Alex Haley in Africa; Chicago celebrities Mayor Richard J. Daley and Eppie Lederer; Lady Bird Johnson posing in a sea of wildflowers, and Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter seated in their living room, completely at ease. Mr. Mauney focused on faces and expressions, and he captured a range of emotions with patience, the right lens, and a sixth sense of where to be located in the context of the event. It was a fascinating look back at a more innocent time in our country’s history.

The next virtual Levy Lecture will take place at 1 p.m. and feature Paddy Lynn presenting a relevant and timely historical portrayal of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Levy Lectures are free with registration.