Early this morning I was perusing the internet and came across two intriguing pictures. They were on a twitter site called “Weird history.” They showed two boys. One of them a nine year old from New York named Kevin Gorman, the other is Dionni, the son of the Chief of the Masai tribe of Kenya.
The photos are captivating. They remind us why we should travel, interact, learn, listen, refrain from judgement of others, and try to make new friends. The photos show us the beauty that is within all of us, but more often unleashed in children because their only agenda is to play and have fun. They show us the power of athletics to intrigue and unite.
I set out to learn more about these pictures and this interaction. With a few minutes of extra work I learned that the pictures were a part of a 1962 article in Life Magazine. (Life had and amazing 31 million subscribers at the time). The story is 14 pages from Kevin’s diary about his interaction with the Masai. It is riveting. He talks about how he communicated with the Masai, even though neither knew the other’s language, how they played, hunted, and even had a ceremony where they became “blood brothers.” Kevin does a wonderful job conveying his experiences with the Masai and relaying them to the reader with a sweet and beautiful innocence. There are tons of memorable lines in his writing, but my favorite is: “The whole Masai tribe liked to look at the pictures in my encyclopedia, so I left it with them as a present.”
Here is a link to the entire 1962 article, well worth the few minutes it takes to read it:
I loved the article, but still had more questions. I wanted to know more about Kevin and his step father, so I kept looking. It turns out that Kevin’s stepfather Robert Halmi has and incredible story of his own.
Robert Halmi was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1924, and grew up in privilege as his father was the official photographer of the Hapsburg royal family. However, being born at this time and place meant a person was going to be of fighting age during the greatest conflict in human history, world war two, and right in the middle of it. His country was a member of the Axis Powers, fighting alongside Germany and Italy, but Halmi chose to instead join the Hungarian resistance movement and fight against the Nazis. He was captured, sent to a labor camp in Poland, and sentenced to death. Thankfully, the camp was liberated by the Soviets. After World War two, Halmi would work against the occupying Soviet Communists in providing information to American spies. Once again, he was captured and sentenced to death, but was able to escape.
In 1951, Halmi boarded a boat to a place that held the promise of freedom and safety: America. All he had was a camera and $5. On the long journey across the ocean he took pictures of the other immigrants on the ship, capturing their combination of desperation and hope. Unfortunately, when they reached shore, he did not have the money to develop the pictures. After working a few weeks to earn enough to develop the pictures, he took them to Life Magazine. Life loved the pictures, and decided to hire him on the spot. For the next two decades he took Life’s readers around the world, specializing in travel and adventure. He was known as a “daredevil photographer”, taking pictures on ice floats near the north pole, on safaris in Africa, and even dangling from a helicopter to capture a shot of skyscrapers in New York City. He also began making critically acclaimed travel and adventure documentaries while working for Life.
Life magazine was done in the 1970’s, but Robert Halmi was not. He turned his attention to American television and film, and became one of the most prolific producers in history. He produced over 200 miniseries and films including television adaptations of “Gulliver’s Travels”, “Merlin”, “Don Quixote”, and many others. His projects won 130 Emmy awards. His most important and famous work was as the executive producer of the 1989 mini series, “Lonesome Dove”, the epic western tale written by Larry McMurtry. It would become the biggest selling D.V.D. of a miniseries of all time, draw millions of fans and revive the mini series as a concept and interest in western movies altogether.
In the 21st century, while he was in his eighties, Halmi continued to work at a breakneck pace. David Howe, the president of the Syfy channel said, “He never switches off. He is on 24/7. I don’t think he sleeps, he lives for reading books and figuring out what his next project is.” Halmi told people he couldn’t fathom the idea of retiring and that he hated Sundays because, “there is no one to call.”
Robert Halmi and Rutger Hauer on set of “Merlin”
Photo Credit New York Times
Robert Halmi passed away in January of 2014 at the age of 90 of a brain aneuryism. He was in the middle of working on a thirteen part series called “Olympus” for the Syfy channel.
Robert Halmi and Kelsey Grammar on the set of “Ebenezier Scrooge”
Photo Credit: N.B.C.
I’m grateful I came across the intriguing pictures of the the two young boys in Africa this morning. It led me to learn not only their story, but the story of the incredible man who took the pictures, Robert Halmi. Another example of a man who came to America to escape war and oppression with nearly nothing, and left this place better than he found it. Another example of how every picture is bigger than you first think it is.
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