From Milton Academy to Norman Rockwell portraits
Herzog photographs capture personality

By Dorothy Malcolm

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Article first appeared in “The Townsman,” circa 1987-89, Associated Media, Boston and Milton, MA

Although it has been eight years since the artist Normal Rockwell died, his legacy continues in the memories of Milton resident, Bradford Herzog. Herzog worked with Rockwell producing portraits of famous people. He would photograph the subjects and Rockwell would draw or paint them.

Their method of portraiture is common today because most people don’t have the time to sit for an artist. In pre-camera days, sketches were made of the subject; today photographs are taken.

To capture the inner personality of a person, the photographer and artist both need the ability to see beyond the surface of the subject’s face. In this respect, the Herzog-Rockwell partnership excelled. Such a partnership created telling portraits of personalities ranging from presidential candidates to the first NASA astronauts.

Herzog’s associations with photography and Normal Rockwell reach back, in a series of events, to his teaching days at Milton Academy [five miles south of Boston]. After serving in the Army during World War II, Herzog returned home and completed his education at Harvard, graduating in the Class of 1950. He taught math at Milton Academy and lived in the boys’ dormitory. The antics and pranks that occurred with the boys led Herzog to invest in a camera.

“No one would believe what goes on in a boys’ dorm, so I figured I’d better get a camera,” he laughed.

Herzog submitted his photos of the boys to the Milton Academy Alumni Bulletin. When these were well received and the boys’ frolics recorded for posterity, Herzog continued to shoot various events at the academy, humorous moments among the boys, their freckled and mischievous faces made indelible and frozen in time through Herzog’s lens.

It was during this time at Milton Academy that a major event in his life occurred. “In 1959, the woman who was the head of the Girls’ English Department at Milton Academy, Mary (Molly) Punderson retired to her home in Stockbridge, Mass. She had hired an English girl, Katherine Bennett as head of the English department and that was pivotal,” Herzog said.

Ultimately, he married Katherine Bennett. Meanwhile in Stockbridge, retired schoolteacher Molly Punderson had married the artist Norman Rockwell.

As photography consumed more and more of Herzog’s time, the teacher chose to leave his position at Milton Academy and proceeded to take pictures of youngsters on a freelance basis for school yearbooks, bulletins and catalogs.

“I perceived a market that I could serve which was schools and colleges. You have got to have some sort of niche in freelance photography. You’ve got to have a ‘thing’ with which you can identify,” he said.

Working with Norman Rockwell

After establishing himself and succeeding in freelance work for schools, Herzog’s career unexpectedly shifted—he met Norman Rockwell.

“Rockwell came into my life because we were out in Stockbridge. We met him and were visiting when suddenly he got a call saying that they were going to nominate Barry Goldwater as a presidential candidate in 1964. They told Norman, ‘Get out there and run a portrait of him!’ Norman, under these circumstances, worked with a photographer because he often only had 10 to 15 minutes with his subject. His own photographer was in India at the time. So I found myself nominated, “ Herzog recalled.

Herzog admitted to being a bit frightened by the prospect of dropping everything with only a few hours’ notice and dashing off to, not only photograph the Arizona senator, but to do it for a Rockwell portrait.

“But Norman was wonderful, “ said Herzog. “Norman would jolly them up and I would take the picture. He was a very, very funny man. He could charm the birds off the trees. Everyone was excited under these circumstances. We were as excited to meet Goldwater as he was to meet Norman.”

Some of the Herzog-Rockwell collaborations included Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Alger Hiss, Dr. John Rock (inventor of the birth control pill), Golda Meir, David Rockerfeller and, of course, Norman Rockwell.

“I like a face that has some sort of character to it. In 1968 alone, we did eight or nine people, all of whom wanted to be president,” Herzog laughed.

Pull Quote:
“Norman was a great influence in my life…Most people perceived him to be a
grandfatherly figure, which he was, but he was also an extremely sophisticated man.”

— Bradford Herzog

One of his best memories of his joint projects with Rockwell was the opportunity of meeting and working with astronaut John Glenn. “He was the funniest,” Herzog recalled.

Rockwell and Herzog were in Florida, on commission from LOOK Magazine to do a portrait of John Glenn. They had a productive and humorous sitting with him. After dinner, at dusk, all three men decided to go for a ride in the astronaut’s speedboat. Glenn was familiar with the waterways but for Herzog and Rockwell, everything rested on trusting the esteemed astronaut’s sense of direction.

“It was at night and in the dark. We couldn’t see anything and we were going so fast. But I thought, ‘It’ll be all right with Astronaut John Glenn at the helm.’ And Norman said the same thing, because we were both frightened!” Herzog laughed.

Herzog’s personal style

Herzog’s style of photojournalism and portraiture is straight and direct. Like Rockwell, his love of children and animals is often the main theme of his pictures. Recently, he was commissioned by Boston Children’s Hospital to put together a book geared for children entering the hospital. It contains shots of children in the hospital, interacting with doctors, nurses and other children.

Domestic and farm animals are softly dealt with in Herzog’s photography as well. On trips to Great Britain with his English wife, Katherine and two daughters, Herzog records gentle animals and rugged inhabitants, especially in the wild Welsh countryside.

From his days at Milton Academy to the present [circa 1987] Herzog has always relied on a Leica Camera. His two Leicas, a single lens reflex and a rangefinder, with a variety of lenses, are the instruments of his craft.

He said that fledgling photographers could use any type of camera to start off and suggested, “Start with your family and just the world around you…[and that] a good photograph shows emotional content. It should teach the viewer something about the subject that he didn’t know before.”

With time, experience and a better camera, any photographer should be able to see an object in a new and more finely tuned light, according to Herzog.

“What I am trying to do in my own photography is to catch the essence of whatever the subject happens to be; whether it’s a person or place, so that the viewer comes away with, most times, a positive feeling as well as an emotional reaction to the subject,” he said.

Herzog most admires the work of photographer Cartier Bresson because he believes that Bresson is always consistent. He also enjoys the sweeping vistas of Ansel Adams’ works and considers the late Sir Cecil Beaton a great portraitist. However, it is Norman Rockwell, whose artistic vision and response to the world around him, carries the most weight with Herzog.

“Norman was a great influence in my life,” said Herzog. “His public image really didn’t do him justice compared with his private image. Most people perceived him to be a grandfatherly figure, which he was, but he was also an extremely sophisticated man; well-read, knew a lot about art and art history, though he had very little formal training in art. And yet, he was always pleased and very surprised when people paid him attention. Oh yes, and he was an extremely funny man!”

Herzog continues to accept assignments and commissions from schools, hospitals and corporations. He still photographs people and places, especially in Great Britain. Some of his photojournalistic pieces were on exhibit and for sale at the Families for Children artists’ sale held recently in metro Boston.

In the future, Herzog has plans to put together a book of his works. It would be a gallery of his collaborated portraits done with Norman Rockwell for LOOK Magazine as well as a collection of his photojournalism.

Herzog considers himself a fortunate man. “I have been able to have two careers in my lifetime, both of which I have enjoyed very much. I left teaching with the most positive feeling and I still miss my association with all the kids, which is one of the great joys of teaching,”
he said.

Yet Bradford Herzog continues to teach through his photographs, allowing us to look deeply into the faces of the famous, the poor, the humble, the powerful, and mostly, into the faces of our children.

All material produced and maintained by Dorothy Malcolm dba Verbatim-Ink.   Not to be reproduced without permission.