Steve Gottlieb's Life's Work
By Timothy P. Cross
would say that Steve Gottlieb '68 had it made. After
graduation, he went on to the Law School, practicing corporate law
for a decade on Wall Street and then in Washington, D.C. He later
became director of environment of the U.S. Synthetic Fuels
Corporation, a Washington-based government firm.
was a good job," Gottlieb says, "but not a life's work."
day, Gottlieb, an avid amateur photographer, took a collection of
his photographs of Washington, D.C., to the owner of a local
publishing house, who looked at the photos for just five minutes
before agreeing to publish them. Images from that first book,
Washington: Portrait of a City (1985), are now on permanent
display at the National Building Museum in Washington,
"When the book came out, I decided to quit my job," Gottlieb
says. He embarked on a highly successful second career as a
commercial photographer, traveling to all 50 states and around the
world on assignments. His fans range from noted architect I.M. Pei
to corporate clients such as NASDAQ and Pfizer Chemical.
Gottlieb got the idea for his second book, the just-published
American Icons: Photographs, 10 years ago, though some of
the photographs in it go back to his amateur days. The book is a
panorama of photographs, taken across 40 states, of the country's
most powerful and enduring emblems, ranging from Mom's apple pie to
the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty. His first publisher had
gone out of business, so Gottlieb had to shop American Icons
around for several years, accumulating "a hefty rejection file"
before he found a publisher willing to take the chance on an
expensive book of photographs.
American Icons, which contains three photos of the World
Trade Center, was published on September 10, 2001. Reflecting on
the terrorist attacks, Gottlieb says that before September 11, he
would have said, "The things that icons have in common is their
permanence." Now, he says, "We realize that the most iconic and
permanent thing can be taken away."
it comes to his books, Gottlieb, who lives and works in his midtown
Manhattan loft, clearly likes to present a unified vision. He not
only took all the photos for American Icons, but also
designed the layout and cover and wrote all the captions and text.
Gottlieb takes considerable pride in the highly personalized text
that accompanies his photos.
While 16 years separated his first two books, readers will only
need to wait a few more months for his third collection,
Abandoned America. Gottlieb describes this book as "a
collection of pictures of abandoned things — cars, trucks,
buildings." In many ways, this work, which he also designed and
wrote the text for, is closest to his heart, capturing, he says,
"things of incredible emotional power" through photographs taken in
42 states. Sleeping Bear Press is scheduled to publish Abandoned
America in September.
American Icons is published by Roberts Rhinehart and
sells for $40. To see Gottlieb's photographs, or read about any of
his books, visit his Web site: www.gottliebphoto.com.