Volume 80, Number 15 | September 9 - 15, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Don Snyder, 76, artistic photog shot Coney, Leary
BY ALBERT AMATEAU
Don Snyder, a photographer whose images chronicled the 1950’s world of Coney Island and the alternative culture of the 1960’s, died Sun., Aug. 29, at the age of 76 in the Chelsea loft where he lived and worked for 50 years.
His magical-realistic photos of the circle around the late Timothy Leary in Millbrook, N.Y., were published in 1979 in “Aquarian Odyssey: A Photographic Trip Into the Sixties,” by Liveright Publishing Corp.
His subjects included the poet/photographer Gerard Malanga and the filmmaker/writer Jonas Mekas. He also produced light sculptures — constructions creating and using light, which he exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum and the Queens Museum.
For a few years in the 1970’s, he taught at the School of Visual Arts where his signature was “fleshprints.” An artist/subject would cover parts of his or her body — most often the face — with petroleum jelly, press them on light-sensitive paper, then develop and print the resulting distorted but recognizable image.
Although he was not a photojournalist, Snyder apprenticed himself for a time to the late W. Eugene Smith (1918-’78), whose fame rests on brutally vivid photos of World War II and of the people of Minamata, Japan, who were made ill by a factory’s discharge of heavy metal into the water.
Born in Brooklyn in 1934, Snyder began to photograph the raffish world of Coney Island as a teenager and attached himself to photographers whose work he admired. He recalled one photo instructor who made him collect blood from a slaughterhouse to use as a photo developer.
“It took a long time but it really worked,” Snyder told a friend.
Snyder attended Syracuse University for a time and was briefly in the Air Force, where he had training in aerial photography. His later work ranged from fashion photos to images of the bizarre fringes of bohemian society. He continued to make periodic photo excursions to Coney Island. One of his recent photo subjects was the mounted police unit that was stationed for a time on the Hudson River pier at W. 23rd St., four blocks west of his studio.
He married Michaeleen Maher in 1967 but the couple separated in 1980. In 1981 he was in a devastating auto accident that left him with metal pins in his hip and legs.
In addition to Maher, his daughter, Deegan, of California, and his son, Ariel, of New York City, and a brother, Steve, of Albany, also survive.