David Logan, 1918-2011

David and Reva Logan

David and Reva Logan

(Update January 26 – Chicago Tribute obituary HERE – more obituary links below).

Over the weekend we got word from Chicago that David Logan, age 93, head of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, had passed away on Saturday.  I’ve written many times, including some of the first words in the JLP book, about the Logan family’s role in the JLP project.  The project wouldn’t have happened without them.  In the winter of ’99-’00 David Logan called me at home after my original story on 821 Sixth Avenue was published in Fall ’99 issue of DoubleTake magazine.  I was a struggling freelance writer at the time, scratching my head to figure out how a project based on W. Eugene Smith’s unwieldy and mysterious 1740 reels of tape could launch.  My DoubleTake story was based on Smith’s photographs and my early oral history interviews.  Nobody had ever heard the tapes that required hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve.  It was a daunting challenge:  How do you raise money to preserve tapes that nobody has heard?  How do you raise money to preserve tapes that, frankly, did not have a very good reputation, tarnished by the upheaval of Smith’s personal life at the time?

David, 82 years old when he called me, said, “We love your story.  What can we do to help?”

The way David found me illustrates the fearless, impulsive manner in which he worked.  The first person he called was the influential New York Times photography critic Vicky Goldberg.  He went straight to the top.  Of course, Vicky had no idea who I was.  But she pointed David to Smith’s Archive at the Center for Creative Photography (CCP) at the University of Arizona and CCP gave David my phone number.  It was one innocent evening in the Pittsboro, NC home I share with my wife that our phone rang.

The Logans’ first grant of $65K made the project real.  It bought the time necessary to write grant proposals to National Endowment for the Humanities, the Grammy Foundation, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, among others.  Over the next eleven years the Logans gave the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) more than $600K for JLP.  They roughly matched the funds we brought into CDS from elsewhere.  Without the support of the Logans and a versatile, one-degree-away-from-anything home like CDS, there’s no way this project would have happened in the manner it did, in the manner that did justice to Smith’s chaotic and weird achievement.

Another quick anecdote illustrating David’s tried-and-true methods:  In 1971 Smith mounted a retrospective of his career at the Jewish Museum in New York City.  The show had around 600 photographs, an impossible number.  It drew media attention from everywhere – Barbara Walters and CBS and all the major print outlets.  A knowledgable and voracious collector of art books and photographs, David Logan attended the show.  Later that week, he wrote Smith a letter (which I found a few years ago in the archives at CCP).  David asked:  How much would it cost me to buy your entire show?  I want your show.

As I write this blog post I’m sitting in the Epic Cafe on 4th Avenue in Tucson, AZ, about a mile down University Boulevard from CCP.  I’m here for another week of research, my 20-something trip here since my first one in April 1997.  This week is devoted to Smith’s work in Japan and the Pacific, and the work is in preparation for my efforts to follow Smith’s footsteps in those places beginning in a few weeks.  Among countless ways – most importantly his three sons and their families – Reva and David Logan’s legacy will live on.  I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.

-Sam Stephenson

p.s. HERE is an obituary emanating from the West Coast.  There will be another coming from Chicago soon.  Check back here for updated links.

HERE is an obituary from the University of Chicago, and HERE from National Public Radio.  HERE from UC-Berkeley School of Journalism.

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