Stanley Rosenfeld Obituary


Stanley RosenfeldStanley Rosenfeld, a photographer whose powerful images of yachts, particularly in America’s Cup races, transfigured the sport he documented for nearly 70 years, died Monday in Miami. He was 89 and lived in North Miami Beach.

He contributed to more than 20 books and hundreds of magazine articles on yachting, and produced many cover photos. His most ambitious work, “A Century Under Sail” (Addison Wesley, 1984), included many of the best photographs taken since the turn of the century by Mr. Rosenfeld and his father, Morris Rosenfeld.

In 1984, Stanley Rosenfeld sold his collection (nearly a million images from the 1920’s to 1981, including those by his father) for $1.8 million to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn. He continued with his career after that, appearing with his large camera bag draped over a shoulder at America’s Cup regattas in 1987, 1988 and 1992.

“He was the dean of American yachting,” said Daniel Forster, a Swiss sailing photographer who now lives in Rhode Island. “He was the person who photographers today aspired to be.”

Mr. Rosenfeld is to be inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame on Feb. 17 at a dinner in Auckland, New Zealand, becoming the 51st member. His father was inducted in 1995.

Stanley Rosenfeld was born on July 27, 1913, and grew up in the Bronx. He attended New York University in the early 1930’s.

At the age of 13, he began helping out his father in the family photographic business, Morris Rosenfeld & Sons, on Nassau Street in lower Manhattan. His two brothers, David and William, were also in the business for many years, but it was Stanley who made it a lifelong career. The studio subsisted on commercial and industrial photography during the Depression, but photographing yachts in and around the New York waterfront was a passion for both father and son.

Stanley Rosenfeld took his first photograph of an America’s Cup yacht in 1930. That was the year of the great 120-foot J-Class yachts Enterprise and Shamrock V, which raced off Newport, R.I. But his most famous photo is a black-and-white print taken in 1938 of the classic 12-Meter yachts Gleam and Northern Light. The photograph, “Flying Spinnakers,” shows two elegant yachts sailing on Long Island Sound in a following sea, their spinnakers billowing. Although Morris Rosenfeld took the photograph, it was Stanley at the wheel of the photographers’ boat who set it up. It took 21 passes before he had the angle right for his father.

Mr. Rosenfeld’s sense of humor seldom failed him. In 1980, when he was shooting the finish of a trans-Atlantic race off Newport, Mr. Rosenfeld discovered that the press boat was taking on water. “Is this your first sinking?” he said to an acquaintance as seawater spilled onto the deck. When she answered that it was, he replied jauntily, “Mine, too.”

Mr. Rosenfeld and his wife, Heather Hanley, whom he married in 1986, spent much of the last decade dividing their time between a home in North Miami Beach and rental apartments in Venice, Rome and Newport. Ms. Hanley, who speaks fluent Italian, was a collaborator with her husband on a number of projects, including a book on sculpturing with Italian marble. Mr. Rosenfeld’s first wife, Ruth Helen Landesman, with whom he had two children, died of cancer in 1979.

Besides his wife, Mr. Rosenfeld is survived by his sons, Richard, of Elkton, Md., and Jonathan, of Manhattan.

From 1920 to 1978, the Rosenfeld studio had a photo boat of its own. The family named its series of three boats, one succeeding the other, Foto I, II and III. Halsey C. Herreshoff, president of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame and an America’s Cup yachtsman, recalled how Mr. Rosenfeld and his father covered the America’s Cup races from their own specially designed powerboat, which had flared sides to deflect sea spray from their camera lenses. “He could maneuver the boat as if it was a part of him,” Mr. Herreshoff said. “Most people who get close to the yachts get shooed away. But everybody had great respect for Stanley. If he came close, people realized he was a part of the scene. He would keep out of the way and just get the picture.”

In his later years, Mr. Rosenfeld became disenchanted with the America’s Cup. In the 1995 event, he was absent altogether. It was the first match he had missed in 65 years. Part of his lack of interest had to do with the relatively calm seas and what he considered to be bland photo opportunities in San Diego. But more, he was chagrined at the increasing advertising. “It hurts me to look at them,” he said at the time. “I understand that the boats cost a great deal of money, and that the teams are very serious. But you shouldn’t do that to a yacht.”

Reprinted from The New York Times