Lloyd Ziff didn’t consider himself a professional photographer until 1999, at which point he said he “decided take his photographs out from under the bed.”
Although the Orient Point resident, 74, had years ago taken an array of now-famous pictures of singer Patti Smith and photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Annie Leibovitz, he didn’t feel ready to share more of his work with the world until last year, when he published two books: “New York: Photographs: 1967-2014” and “Los Angeles: Photographs: 1967-2014.” He’ll discuss both during an illustrated lecture at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 5.
Going public with his photography is still new territory for Ziff, a former longtime graphic designer and art director. This past summer, after seeing his books displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, he became overwhelmed with emotion.
“To tell you the truth, I cried,” he said.
Although Ziff’s professional work as a graphic designer and magazine art director had long been on display, his photographs were just for him. He became interested in the field during his final year at Pratt Institute School of Design in Brooklyn, where he graduated in 1967.
“I liked the magic of it,” he said. “Photography was something I got to do for me.”
Following graduation, Ziff worked at McCall’s magazine and designed album covers at CBS Records. Photography continued to serve as his creative outlet, he said, but he never thought he could turn his hobby into a career. In fact, the photos he took of Mapplethorpe and Smith were taken before the two ever became famous. Ziff and Mapplethorpe attended Pratt together, he said, and both were friends with Smith.
“They were just beautiful and I wanted to photograph them,” Ziff said.
It wasn’t until Smith asked Ziff for permission to use the photos in her 2010 book “Just Kids,” however, that they saw the light of day.
Eighteen years ago, after three decades working for high-profile publications including Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler and Vanity Fair, Ziff decided he had accomplished all he wanted to as an art director.
“It was a great dream of mine to get this book done,” he said, adding that he had always wanted to be taken seriously as a photographer. In the 1980s, while teaching at Parson’s School of Design in Manhattan, student-turned-assistant Giovanni Russo encouraged him to publish his work. After Russo died from cancer in 2010, Ziff collaborated with KMW Studio Publishing to complete his books, which are dedicated to his former student.
“It’s extremely gratifying to think that it’s going to be in libraries and bookstores and people’s bookshelves forever,” he said.
Since their release, Ziff has given talks and held book signings at venues including the New York Public Library and Rizzoli Bookstore in Manhattan. On Sunday afternoon, he’ll give a slideshow presentation of some of the photos featured in the books and talk about where he was when he took the photos and the stories behind them. Copies of his books will also be available for purchase.
“I’m very excited. I think it’s going to be great,” said Poppy Johnson, program coordinator at Floyd Memorial Library. “[Ziff] has a magnificent eye. Lloyd is a really well-known person in New York City and Los Angeles for the creative work he’s been doing for decades.”
Ziff said he’s excited and proud to share his photos with the North Fork community. He also hopes to publish more books of his work — and encourages others to follow their dreams.
“Try to do what you love,” he said. “What’s the point if you don’t?”