Archie Lieberman was a presence in Evanston. He lived in the big red Georgian home just south of the curve on Asbury. He made beautiful photographs of sunsets, and piers, and people in Evanston. He loved to hang out at the firehouse with his close friend, Captain Harold Cowell. He raised springer spaniels and sailed from Dempster Street on a Sunfish. He was a Jew, a natural man and a druid. He was active in Beth Emet, where he was the adult counselor to its Youth Group. He would do walking meditation on holy days on the paths at Harms Woods.
He did a beautiful photo-article in the Tribune about the disappearing vacant lots back in the late 50’s - it featured boys from the neighborhood playing “war” in a wooded vacant lot on the corner of Dodge and Madison. It is gone now.
And so is Archie. He died in 2008 not far from the farm that he and Esther, his wife, moved to in the early ‘80s. Today would have been his 86th birthday.
Archie was a great and internationally known photojournalist, author, scholar and thinker. He led a varied career, from teaching phenomenology at the Chicago Divinity School, to authoring over 20 books, to shooting a picture of JFK that was a favorite of the family and chosen by Jackie as the lead picture of the Look Magazine Memorial issue to Kennedy. He taught photography at Columbia College, Knox College and the University of Dubuque. He would admonish his students: when you photograph a tree, don’t make a picture of the tree, photograph the forces that made it.
He was an eagle scout. In World War II he won a football scholarship (he was a Roosevelt High School “Roughrider”) to play ball at the U of W in Madison. He took one look at the size of “those Wisconsin farm boys” and decided it would be safe to join the war. He became a Marine Corps combat photographer in the Pacific. He only told one story about the war: landing on a beach under enemy fire and seeing his friend, Florian, shot dead.
He was a mystic, and believed that once, while he was driving alone at night across Wisconsin and fell asleep, he was startled awake by a punch in his right arm. He turned to see who did it: he said he saw Jesus there.
When he was near death and eating a jumbo supreme pizza bought at the Galena Walmart and drinking Chivas Regal he said he had been with the CIA and his 6 month and year “trips” to Finland, Israel and Venezuela as a photojournalist had been covers for secret missions. Many famous artist to his home for dinner including Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Dyer Bennet, Meyer Levin, David Steinberg. He befriended Eli Weisel, Win Strake, Miss Francis, Adlai Stevenson, Chuck Percy, Gary Colmer, Col. Henry Crown, Dave Garroway, Paul Schutzer, Herman Kogan, Bob Cromie, Ray Bradbury, and on and on and on. The Archbishop of Canterbury once rode with him his his Chevy.
His works are part of the collections of the Art Institute in New York and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His papers and photos are now part of a Lieberman Archive at Columbia College. You can see just a a sliver of his work at www.archielieberman.com.
And, no matter how famous he was, inevitable when he traveled the world someone would ask” “H-m-m. Lieberman? Lieberman? Are you Sol the barber’s son from Albany Park?”
Archie, my father, happy birthday. We all miss you.