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Mary S Taylor

Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Posts: 28069
Location: Fresno, CA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:05 am    Post subject: LeBeck, Jerry INTERVIEW Reply with quote

Monterey County Herald, CA March 28, 1996 p1D
Keeping focused
Despite a brain tumor that ended his professional career, photographer Jerry Lebeck takes his best shot at life
By Calvin Demmon / Herald Staff Writer
For many years you could hardly go to a wedding in Monterey – especially if the bride or groom came from one of the town’s older, established families – without running into Jerry Lebeck, photographer. With his cameras and lights, Lebeck captured so many happy newlyweds on film that he can’t begin to estimate the number, but there’s a good chance that if you look at a family photo album in Oldtown Monterey you’re looking at his work. Lebeck is not as active now as he was when he had his own studio and took pictures not only of weddings but of the children that followed, and of the children’s school classes, and of conventions that came to town, and of flowers, animals, plants and trees. He also helped hundreds of local people who attended his classes at Monterey Peninsula College learn how to take pictures for themselves. A brain tumor in 1988 changed his life, sending him to various hospitals for various procedures that seemed they would never end. Multiple operations removed the turmor and left him with two plastic drain tubes running inside his head and downinto his body. All those insults to his brain handed him a bad problem with his short-term memory – but also a renewed rest for the daily miracle of life. No longer a full-time photographer, Lebeck still maintains a darkroom in his Pacific Grove home and is still passionate about his art. He is also a volunteer for the Alliance on Aging’s Friendly Visitor program, and for various other nonprofit agencies that deal with the problems of others who have been devastated by age, illness, or other medical disasters. Wht’s more, he is a regular again at Pacific Grove’s First Methodist Church, where he worshiped when he was a child. “After the operations I became a much more religious individual,: he says, his voice adeep, percolating bass. “I’m grateful that my mother forced me to go to Sunday School as often as I did, much to my objection when I was a young boy. It paid off.” Now 54, Lebeck was born in Santa Barbara, but says that really doesn’t count because his parents were Pacific Grove residents and his mother had merely gone down there to be with her parents during the pregnancy, and she came right back as soon as he arrived. “I fib a little bit when it comes to being a lifelong citizen of Pacific Grove,” he growls. His father, the late Jim Lebeck, taught at Robert H. Down and at Pacific Grove High, where he also coached football and basketball. His mother, Eileen Lebeck, conservatory trained as a pianist, taught music at the lebeck home to scores of local residents. Yuogn Jerry grew up knowing that life can be fragile. When his father’s kidneys failed, arrangements were made to install a dialysis machine at home, and Lebeck, his sister, and his mother all became experts in hooking his father up to the tubes and hardware three times a week. Lebeck also became an expert photographer. He was not only yearbook editor at Pacific Grove High, but he took all the photos for the book. At Monterey Peninsula College, he spent three years “amassing an incredible number of units in every possible type of course,” while shooting pictures all over the county. He acquired a Speed Graphic – one of theose cameras that you see in ‘40s movies, usually lugged around by a wisecracking guy in a beat-up hat. While still in school, he would haul his photo gear to a football game in, say, King City, photograph the action, and process the plates in his car while driving home. First thing in the morning, he’d make a print and drop it off at the Monterey Peninsula Herald, then an afternoon paper, for that day’s sports page. After MPC, Lebeck went to Sacramento state, where he took the school’s publicity shots, “spending all my time in the darkroom and not spending enough time with my studies.” Though he had intended to follow his father and mother into teaching, photography called him away from that. He enrolled at the Art Center College of Design in Hollywood, studying under the top photographers of the time. After three years in Los Angeles, he realized that every time he told someone he was from Pacific Grove they called it a beautiful spot, and he decided it was true. So at age 23, he came home for good. “I never did like Los Angeles,” he says. Back in Pacific Grove he worked as a freelance photographer, then bought the Trend Studio in Monterey’s Del Monte Shopping Center and began teaching at MPC. When shopping center management began to try to control the way he ran his business, he moved it to Soledad Drive. A longtime member of the Sierra Club, Lebeck set out on a club-run hike one day and came back with a new acquaintance, Barbara Hill, a San Franciscan. They married, 27 years ago. She’s a teacher at Pacific Grove High and they have two grown daughters. Photos by Lebeck have been published in Life magazine (a widely reprinted shot of two bears happily displaying their feet at the San Diego Zoo) and in “A Wild Garden,” a locally produced book. He also contributed to “Not Man Apart,” a Sierra Club book that also included the work of local photographers Ansel Adams, Steve Crouch and Edward and Cole Weston. In 1988, Lebeck began to have severe headaches. His doctor sent him up to Stanford Medical Center, where the tumor at the top of his spine was discovered. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some connection with the hours and hours I spent in a darkroom over a bunch of fuming chemicals,” he says. He spent months in foggy isolation at Stanford. “I’ve got pictures of myself with this crown of bloody gauze,” he says. “I had a period of time that I was pretty out of it.” When he was finally released he found that he couldn’t remember important day-to-day things, such as where he was supposed to be at a certain time. So he didn’t return to the studio. He says he’s gradually gotten better at remembering. And he still takes photos, too. “I still love photography with a passion,” Lebeck says. “It’s something I’ll never grow out of.”
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