Documentary photographer George S. Zimbel likes to talk to students. He’s interested in education and has decades of experience to share with the new generation.
“If you want to be a great photographer, you have to know about the world before you shoot it,” he said during a recent chat.
Zimbel will talk to students and members of the public at John Abbott College on Friday. During his two-hour lecture he will also talk about his latest book of photographs A Book of Readers (Les éditions du passage).
The images reach back to Paris in 1952 when Zimbel first became fascinated by readers and their intense concentration.
Zimbel, 83, has been capturing moments on film for more than 60 years — famous moments including the billow of Marilyn Monroe’s white halter dress and Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail.
“I did Liberal Arts as a student,” Zimbel said. “I studied political science, read the great books and worked for the student newspaper, on top of the photography stuff.
“You have to know what’s going on out there … or you will miss the good shots.”
Zimbel’s work is on display at museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
Zimbel is by no means anti-digital, but in this day of affordable digital cameras with great big memory discs, he thinks people might be losing focus.
“My granddaughter recently got back from a trip and told me she had several hundred photographs to show me,” he said. “I don’t want to look at hundreds of photos. I want to look a handful of photos that mean something to her. I call it digital diarrhea.”
Zimbel and wife Elaine Zernovitz and their four children moved to Prince Edward Island in 1971. It was their way of protesting the Vietnam War. Montreal has been home since the early 1980s.
Photo agency Getty Images is working on an archives of his photographs and his work continues to be published worldwide.
Zimbel is currently photographing infrastructure and has an idea for a third book which he won’t reveal, as yet.
“I’m enjoying the design aspect of cracked sidewalks,” he said.
A film crew will be filming the lecture. Guests will be asked to sign a release form.
George S. Zimbel speaks at John Abbott College, 21275 Lakeshore Rd. in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, in classroom Penfield-204, Friday at 1 p.m. Admission is free.