"He has photographs, where when you find them in their world, you get the world and the individual as well. It's a defining thing for a photograph to do."
-- William Kennedy.
The late photojournalist Bob Paley was often described as "a poet with a camera." A staff photographer for the Knickerbocker News newspaper from 1946 to 1974, Paley covered the most important events of the day as well as earning national recognition for his work as a stringer for Time-Life magazines. More Than Words: The Photography of Newsman Bob Paley, a documentary by his daughter, filmmaker Mary Paley, explores the socio-political landscape of Albany as seen through Paley's astute lens during the tumultuous decades following World War II. More Than Words will be screened at the GE Theater at Proctors, Schenectady, on Dec. 28 at 7 PM. A panel discussion will follow the screening.
Co-written by Mary Paley with Patrick Bulgaro and co-directed with Jon Russell Cring, the film was awarded Best Documentary at the Gulf Coast Film Festival in Houston. In November it was screened as part of the New York State Writers Institute 2018 Classic Films series, where it received an enthusiastic audience response.
Illustrated by Paley's powerful and intimate black and white photos along with archival newsreel footage, the film presents a multi-layered retrospective of the social upheavals that marked the era of protest and change—and the importance of the press in both recording and propelling that change. Interviewees include Pulitzer-Prize winning author and journalist William Kennedy and a dozen other longtime news writers and editors, along with civic actors who were subjects of Paley's camera and contemporary commentators.
More Than Words is also a heartfelt portrait of the artist, starting with his early forays into photography during his childhood in Rensselaer, NY, his service as a daring aerial photographer in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and onto his maturation as a photojournalist renowned for his ability to "capture the moment." Among the revealing images drawn from Paley's archives are candid shots of Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Rockefeller, George Wallace, the 1969 Woodstock music festival, and the tireless activists who braved all in hopes of a better world.
Paley's unflinching artistry exposed the oppression of minorities, migrants, and the disabled. "I believe the best photojournalism doesn't merely capture history. It changes history," says the filmmaker. "Paley's work did that."