Sad Death of Arlene Gottfried August 11 2017
Arlene Gottfried - photo by Kevin Downs
I was very sad to hear of the death of Arlene Gottfried this week on Wednesday August 9th. A great photographer and a good friend.
I met Arlene some twenty years ago at the 1998 Houston Fotofest. I can’t remember whether it was through a review session, but the work that I saw of hers was an extraordinary colour series about a gospel church. It had such energy and such engagement that I felt that it had to be published - and so in 1999 we published her first book, ‘The Eternal Light’.
Arlene came on press with me in Verona - a great adventure both for her and for me. I remember it well. We met up in Arles and after a hectic week at the Rencontres we took the overnight train to Italy. I was travelling quite light but Arlene had brought along two large suitcases - one of which had a broken handle - and a third equally large bag. I seem to remember at least three changes of train that involved enormous numbers of steps, an enormous amount of lifting, and two extremely weary people. No matter how exhausting the journey became, Arlene never lost her enthusiasm or her sense of humour and at 6.30am we arrived in Verona and headed off to the printers. For the next four or five days we spent almost every hour of the day together - and I began to get to know her as a person and not just a photographer.
Over the following years we would meet up on her occasional trips to Europe or on mine to the States. Arlene had joined The Eternal Light and become a singer in the choir. For her, this was clearly one of the most important things that she ever did - it gave her such joy, and became a major part of her life. She sang with various choirs, a chorus and eventually even became a soloist. Sadly I didn’t catch it, but at Look 3 Photography Festival in the States, in 2012, accompanied by a local gospel choir, she sang on stage during a projection of her photographs.
Arlene had such a great warmth about her. She loved people though she was shy and, in terms of her work, extremely modest. She was also extremely kind and thoughtful. She never mentioned her illness to me, yet when the Manchester bombing happened in May this year she was in touch immediately to check that we were alright. And so - an amazing photographer but, more importantly, an amazing person.
She will be missed.