William Rosenfeld

William RosenfeldThe information below originates from Mr. William M. Rosenfeld through correspondence and an interview in which he states, “We seek to understand the meaning of the words ‘team effort’ between father and sons and their love of their work.”

William was born in May of 1921 and died in March of 2006.  He wrote, “that all the children, from very early on were involved with the business. There is no date or time on the beginning, there were always cameras and equipment around. As soon as we could walk and carry photographic equipment, you went on “jobs”. A young, skinny, slight of build kid could always be placed inconspicuously in a corner hidden from the camera to set off a flash. At first, flash powder, set off by giant caps, gigantic blue flashes; then the first “bulbs” which frequently shattered so you learned not to expose yourself to any flying shards of glass. It goes back beyond my recorded memory. I guess that I became “involved” as a photographic Rosenfeld almost the day I was born.”

William, as all the sons did, worked out in the field and in the darkroom. Parts of the business that few tend to think about were the nuts and bolts of keeping it running smoothly. William was also responsible for the care, maintenance, and repairs of the Rosenfeld boats and on occasion the maintenance of the cameras which might include creating parts for anyone who needed a special piece made or repairs to the cameras. There were no camera repair shops afloat.

Many times William operated the boat FOTO during assignments, a position he held increasingly from 1935 or 1936 until 1968. The one who operated the photographers boat needed to put the photographer in exactly the right position to ‘shoot’. William states that “most of the best Rosenfeld pictures were made of a moving subject from a moving platform – mostly FOTO. This procedure required the coordination of two people, the photographer and the person running the boat. In truth, often the photographer, busy with his camera and all that entails, doesn’t see the broader action. Countless times, the person running FOTO is more aware of simultaneous or coming actions than the person with the camera. This requires more than operating the boat under hectic conditions. It requires a deep and unusual understanding of the characteristics of FOTO, the subject boat or boats, and a knowledge of the Racing Rules and the Rules of the Road. It must also draw on times spent with the crew who are in charge of cruising and racing boats.”

William became active in the Coast Guard in 1942. He served in the Atlantic and Pacific on an Attack Transport and was decorated. He is proud that he served a total of 38 years of duty to this country as a Reserve Officer.

William married Dorothy Day in 1949, settled in Port Chester, NY and they had two sons. His wife died in 1990.

After leaving the family business in 1968 he joined NAEBM, the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers, where among other duties he instructed at the Westlawn School of Yacht Design. Later he joined the ABYC which stands for the American Boat & Yacht Council. During these years he served as a US Delegate to IMCO (now IMO) the International Maritime Consultative Org. in London during the rewrite of the International Rules of the Road. At the same time he served on the Coast Guard’s RORAC, the Rules of the Road Advisory Committee, and helped with the rewrite of the Inland Rules of the Road. He also served the U.S. and boating world by working for the International Standards Organization.

Besides these occupations he found time for many civic organizations and still finds it difficult to sleep during fire alarms, even at his age, being a retired Captain of the volunteer Harry Howard Hook and Ladder Company.

This is a postscript written by William Rosenfeld that some might say goes to the heart of the family occupation.

“Morris ‘Rosey’ Rosenfeld could at once be a martinet, tyrant to the family and at the same time be very generous and giving. He gave no quarter in his demands for excellence in our photography; nor did he accept any less for himself. All must remember his life spanned from wet-plates, some with a speed under 10 to pepped-up film with a speed of over 4,000 or more. From crystal radio sets, to television, radar, from the Wright Brothers to the speed of sound, from sail to Gar Wood, all of which he photographed, and in-between, Lindbergh, the Model-T, from pencils to the computer, black and white to color. If ever there was a person who recorded change it was Rosey. Yet I believe his heart was in taking beautiful pictures of ships and yachts under sail. So, in the back of our minds no matter how unforgiving the taskmaster, he left a record to which we hopefully contributed of beauty on the water that will exist for a long, long time. Thanks to him it is in our blood too.”