Morris Rosenfeld

Photos by Rosenfeld [1940]

Morris Rosenfeld
Morris Rosenfeld

Each year hundreds of photographs of boats and marine scenes appear on these pages with the credit line under them "Rosenfeld." Many readers want to know just who this chap Rosenfeld is.

For the benefit of those who don't know we have set down these few lines which we hope will in some way pay tribute to the man who is without question the leading marine photographer of the world.

Forty-five years ago, Rosie, as a boy with a few pennies in his pockets, walked the waterfront of New York City. Boats, shipping and the water had always fascinated him. He had a cheap little camera and he took a few pictures of the shipping tied up at the docks. Among others was a rather unusual "shot" of a square-rigger which he subsequently mailed to one of the New York newspapers for entry in a camera contest. His photograph was published and he received five dollars for it. That started him off and from that day to this he has specialized in the subject. At present he has nearly a whole floor in a down town office building and employs seven or eight men all the year around just to keep things going. Not the least part of his stock in trade is his file of literally thousands and thousands of plates and films. All one has to do is to express a wish for a picture of some yacht of the past or present and Rosie can produce it for you in the twinkling of an eye.

Years ago he realized that it might be cheaper to own his own boat rather than being forced to hire one for every job that came up. At first it was a fast runabout. This, in time, gave way to a seaskiff cruiser and then came the modern Foto, a specially designed and built job capable of high speeds yet seaworthy enough to stay out in almost anything. A summer afloat in Foto would be an education to any boatman. Ranging the entire length of the Sound, Block Island, Montauk, New-port, Buzzards Bay and all intermediate points, Foto goes out and stays out no matter what the weather.

Rosie has three sons, David, the oldest; Stanley, the next oldest and William, the youngest. All three work with their father and help to produce the pictures that are familiar to everyone. Rosie, himself, is probably one of the best liked men connected with the yacht industry. He has entree anywhere. He knows all the big wigs personally and no matter where he goes he is given a royal welcome. He can tell you amusing incidents by the hour and typical of these is the one about Charles Francis Adams, then Secretary of the Navy, and famous yachtsman who was sailing Yankee in one of the trial races before a recent America's Cup race. It was a light day and the big yachts were easing along with slightly started sheets. Rosie, in Foto, wanted to get a close-up of Mr. Adams at the wheel of Yankee, so Stanley, under Rosie's direction, carefully nosed Foto up under the big yacht's counter—to leeward of course. Mr. Adams' face never changed expression nor did he once look at that too-close bow. Slowly the Foto's bow forged ahead not six feet from the Yankee's lee rail. Rosie got his picture, then not satisfied, inched his boat still further ahead in order to get more of a head-on view of the famous skipper. Finally Mr. Adams' patience ran out and with a sweep of his hand and a quick turn of his face he cried —"Get the hell out of there, Rosie," but he had a smile on his face when he said it. Rosie got his picture, swinging arm and all. Mr. Adams had not once noticed the boat up to that time but he knew it could only be Rosie who would do the job so unobtrusively.

During the past two Cup races, Mr. Vanderbilt had given Rosie orders to take every imaginable picture of the defender. Mr. Vanderbilt, knowing the accuracy of Rosie's work, realized that one sure way of studying the set of the defender's sails and her trim in the water was to examine and compare the photographs.

He's had plenty, of close calls and it's not funny to be with him in the Foto, nearly stopped, thirty feet ahead of a twenty-knot motor yacht charging down on you. He has run his boat dead slow, so as not to disturb the water, across the bows of a fleet of New York Yacht Club Forty-footers, tearing at him in a strong breeze in close formation. If his engine ever faltered under these conditions it would be too bad, because the boats would be on him before be or they could do anything about it.

Camera fiends always ask questions about his cameras, exposures and so on, but precious little information can he give them because he uses only special instruments that cannot be purchased either here or abroad. His equipment is of the finest and each print is individually developed and printed to get just the right texture and tones. No mass production is allowable in his dark rooms and the results tell the story.

We asked Rosie to pick out what he considered to be eight of his outstanding pictures. They will be found on these pages, but no printer and no engraver can do justice to the originals. Most of these pictures were taken right in Long Island Sound, one was taken off Miami soon after the start of the Nassau race two years ago. The bow view of the big Hi-Esmaro was taken as she came into New London at full speed and the thought of taking that picture sends a shudder down Rosie's spine. The sunrise scene was taken from Rosie's bedroom window at 5.15 a.m., on a summer's morning. He lives in a handsome brick house on the end of City Island where no yacht can get by without his careful scrutiny. The seascape was taken in the Gulf Stream forty miles off Miami from the Coast Guard Cutter Mojave. The men working on the headsails of the Migrant give some idea of the size of one of the large yachts.

For copyists and artists we would like to call attention to the fact that each and every one of these pictures on the following pages is copyrighted and it is inadvisable to use them for any other purpose than that for which they are intended.

(Reprinted from Rudder, January 1940, pp. 24, 135)