Saturday, March 27, 2010

WILDFLOWER PHOTOGRAPHER


Leif Heilberg has been a Wildflower since the early ‘90s, but he has been a professional photographer a lot longer than that. He has lived and/or photographed around the world, including most of Africa, Sweden, the old Soviet Union, Canada, many European countries and, of course, America. One of the more interesting episodes of which he tells is getting arrested in the ‘50s by the communist police in Bulgaria for being an “agent provocateur”, which the militia court confirmed (he had been answering questions from the Bulgarians about life in Canada, but that was taboo in a Communist state). He was deported to Yugoslavia from where he caught a train to Greece, then Turkey and took a ship to Israel. He states that he continued to take pictures all along the way!

From Haifa he went to Marseille and caught a ship to Quebec where he professes to have lived quietly until 1959 when he took a honeymoon to Europe, again photographing (many of the photos were nudes) in Scandinavia, Finland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and once again, Bulgaria. While in Poland he attended the Universal Esperanto Association congress in Warsaw. [Note: According to Wikipedia, Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international language in the world.] Leif has actually translated several of the lead articles in the Daisy Dispatch into Esperanto for one of their journals. Yes, he sent me a copy; no, I cannot read it. But I saved them all, if you would like to try!

Leif and his wife lived in New York and moved to his “permanent” home in San Francisco in 1960. At least, it was a home to come back from photography trips to central and South America, the South Pacific, Asia and Hawaii. He claims the latter to be a home-away-from home for several years. A paradise for almost anyone, it was perhaps even more so for a photographer dedicated to the nudist/naturist ideal.

In 1960 he became a card-carrying nudist and began taking photos for several US nudist magazines. These “US” pictures were taken in Mexico, the Caribbean, San Salvador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, New Hebrides, New Caledonia, Hong Kong, India, Lebanon and Israel, among others. In Israel he photographed two girls who later appeared in Playboy. He was so prolific that he worked himself out of a job, producing enough material for Elysium, Inc. to continue publishing for years.

Leif then began shooting stock photos for the agency that supplied photos to the British Publication, Health & Efficiency. One time I actually found my photo –taken by Leif at ShangriLa Ranch– illustrating an article about Yugoslavia. I’ve never been to Yugoslavia, so I was as surprised as the friend who showed it to me!

Leif says that making a living from nudist pictures was rather difficult, so he also built up a wedding/quinceanera/anniversary business in order to make photography his sole source of income. Sometimes the nudist photos more than paid expenses, sometimes not; but they were easily his favorite way to make ends meet!


Leif goes on to explain many of the technical details of his photography career, which we may be able to use in a future Daily Dispatch, but we definitely will be using a few more photos that he has provided of Wildflowers
–mostly vintage and mostly at Jardin del Sol. Stay tuned for more fun!
(Source: Daisy Dispatch, Volume 40, Numbers ¾, March/April 2009)

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