Photographer Holds Out Hope History Will Repeat Itself

From: Global Photos
Published: Fri May 20 2005

Winfield Frazeur has spent most of his life capturing moments in time, as a professional photographer. The Oregon man has photographed world leaders, the running of the bulls in Spain, orphanages in Korea, religious shrines in Japan. He's shot aerial photographs, supervised satellite photography for a government agency and has photographed more than 1,000 weddings.

Most people would call his tools "cameras." He thinks of them as time machines.

On Sept. 15, 2006, Winfield will celebrate his 50-year anniversary as a photographer. He's already deep in preparations for the milestone. For several years, Winfield has been revisiting sites and people he once photographed, all over the world, re-taking shots he captured long ago.

He's gone through his archive of more than 8,000 photos and made a list of those he wants to re-create. Some of his subjects have died. There will be no re-shoots of John F. Kennedy, or Ricky Nelson, or the high school friend Winfield photographed in the fall of 1956 at their first freshman dance at Alameda High School, in Alameda, California. That girl died of breast cancer when she was 45.

But the rest of his high school gang got together in 2002, so Winfield could shoot their "after" photos for his project. He found most through the Internet.

But not all of Winfield's subjects have been as easy to find. And the one he'd like to find the most -- the woman he calls "my first love" -- has been the most elusive of all.

She was a flamenco dancer who lived in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Her name was Maria. Two 40-by-60-inch photos of her, taken in 1962, hang on the wall of Winfield's studio. She was only 19 years old the night the photographs were taken. Her photographer was 21.

Perhaps because he's just recovered from a divorce after a long marriage, perhaps just because he's a romantic, Winfield feels driven to find and rephotograph Maria. He traveled to Spain last fall and couldn't find her. "I went to government agencies, to flamenco organizations, none of which knew her." A few old timers remembered her, though.

"I need to go back," he says. "I feel she's still alive. I have to find her."

The photos of Maria inspired Winfield's anniversary project. "I put on a photo exhibit in Grants Pass at the fairgrounds," he says.

"A little old lady looked at the photos of Maria and said, 'Wow. She is really beautiful. Where is she? Is she still dancing? Have you talked to her?' And I said no. But it turned on the lights. Because I had thought about her many times over the years."

The woman told Winfield he should put together a book of photographs. Winfield had never considered it. "You have to nderstand I am normally a very private person," he says. "My generation was told to go out, go to work, get married, have babies and not complain about anything. And that was how I shot my pictures."

But he was intrigued by the idea of a book. "I'm an out-of-the-box person," he says. "Anybody can write an autobiography. Any photographer can put together a coffee-table book. I wanted to do something different." He decided to re-shoot photos he'd captured in the last 50 years.

He's re-shot more than just his old high school friends. He went back to a riding stable in Oakland, Calif., that he shot in 1959, when he was 18. "It's still there, with the same name, 'Skyline Stables,' on the barn." In the old photograph a 1959 Ford sits in front of the stables. "There was a 2002 Ford pickup sitting there in the re-shoot," Winfield says.

He went into the Navy after graduating from high school and served as a Navy photographer all over the world.

The Navy took him to Rota, Spain, in the early 1960s. Winfield claims he shot "the first images of Russian missiles headed for Cuba in the spring of 1962. Not during the infamous 10 days in October; in the spring, before that. The ships came down from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean, through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Atlantic. That's where I photographed them."

In his off-hours Winfield shot freelance photos off the base. One night the manager of a nightclub hired him to shoot the club's dancers. Winfield set up his camera and lights. "I'm sitting there, drinking my Cuba libre -- the drink of choice for foolish young sailors at that time -- waiting. And this young, absolutely beautiful woman, light on her feet, floated into the room. I was just sitting there, with my mouth open."

Winfield found the nerve and the Spanish vocabulary to ask the woman out for coffee. Her chaperone joined them. "That woman was with us every moment, as was typical of that era," he says.

He invited her to a movie the following weekend. "It just progressed from there." Winfield and Maria saw each other often in the next month. "Her parents seemed to like me," he says.

But one night the nightclub manager told Winfield that Maria's family didn't want Winfield to see her again.

He'll never know if it was chance or pressure from Maria's family, which was well-connected, but when Winfield returned to the base that night he was told he was being transferred to the U.S.

"They didn't have telephones there in the early 1960s. And I was restricted to the base for my last two weeks, because they don't want you to bring back any communicable diseases (to the U.S.). I couldn't find anybody who could get a message to Maria, so I left without telling her I was leaving. We had become very close. She probably doesn't know to this day what happened to me."

Years passed, and Winfield settled in Grants Pass, Oregon in the 1980s.

He feels fortunate to have been a photographer all these years, to have witnessed public and personal bits of history. In 1969 he shot the first birthday party of a little girl who had chocolate all over her hands and face. He rephotographed her recently, "with chocolate all over her hands and mouth again."

He loves to study the before-and-after shots. "I'm a recording historian and I want to see what history has done to people, to places. Cities have grown. I probably have pictures of 50 different ships; they're not only decommissioned, they're scrapped.

There's nothing left of those ships.

"And those high school kids in 1956. They were young. They had dreams. Did those dreams work out? Can you see it in their faces?"

Winfield hasn't made the transition to digital photography -- he's still a film photographer. "I'm that cowboy buried in Boot Hill in Arizona with his boots on," he says. "I'm going to die with film in my camera and with my boots on."

He just hopes he'll be able to find and photograph his flamenco dancer, Maria, before that day comes.
Company: Global Photos
Contact Name: Winfield Scott Frazeur IV
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 541/ 476-0942

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