Description Mel Traxel (1916-2000) was the still photographer on five Steve McQueen films,'Bullitt,' 'The Reivers,' 'Les Mans,' 'The Getaway,' and 'Enemy of the People.' He retired soon after shooting the vastly underrated neo-noir 'Pennies From Heaven' (1981). This is the first of my several portraits of Robert Mitchum (1917-1997), himself a much underrated film actor. (He never even received an honorary Oscar, which he probably would have turned down anyway, in his contrariness.) This shot is from one of his 'just phone it in' roles; Deputy Ben Kane in Burt Kennedy's Western, 'Young Billy Young' (1969). He is wearing the same hat he wore in Henry Hathaway's 'Five Card Stud,' released in 1968. He turned down the lead in Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece 'The Wild Bunch' to appear in the lackluster 'Stud.' Lee Marvin also turned down the role, for a bigger paycheck, in the so-so musical 'Paint Your Wagon.'Mel Traxel photographed only one Bob Mitchum film, the 1963 released 'Rampage;' forgettable except for one of Elmer Bernstein's best scores.'Maybe because it's entirely an artist's eye, patience and skill that makes an image and not his tools.'...Ken Rockwell@2009 David Lee Guss Homage, Mel Traxel, Robert Mitchum, 'Young Billy Young' set, Old Tucson, Arizona, 1968-2008
David Lee Guss, Caaa Grande, Arizona Member Since November 2009 Artist Statement I first became obsessed with photography and motion pictures while growing up in post WW2 Manila in the Philippine Islands in the late 1940's/early 1950's. Film noirs were a particular influence.
But my first love remains the theater. I acted in numerous amateur productions from 1958 to 1978. In 1979 I earned a MA in drama from the University of Arizona; earlier getting a BA in English from the University of Minnesota, where I co-founded and ran for four years the first film society on campus. While at the U of A, I studied with the master black and white photo essayist W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) the last year of his life. I am the last person cited in Jim Hughes' definitive biography of Gene, as I wrote about attending his final class days before his death.
I still consider myself an amateur photographer as almost all my work displayed here has been self assignments. After graduating from an announcing school in Minneapolis in 1964 I began employment as a news anchorman/booth announcer/writer/still photographer, at the now defunct KXAB TV in Aberdeen, South Dakota, without having taken a journalism course or ever have taken a photograph. I bluffed my way into the job. Being essentially my own boss of a one man news team, I could repeatedly blunder and bury my numerous mistakes. There I began my thematic, photo essays as stories for broadcast in black and white slide form. I found photography much more rewarding than being a media celebrity.
After an abortive try at the Peace Corps I landed at KVOA TV in Tucson, Arizona in April 1967 as a news editor/cinematographer. I continued with the photo essays now shot on negative film, and printed/ rephotographed with 16mm film. My only on air appearances were when I did "stand-uppers" or interviews.
Since then I have spent decades as a teacher of arts related subjects (acting, film making/history, creative writing, art history, literature and photography, English, etc. in various community colleges, universities and prison facilities in Arizona.
My images, with the captions and descriptions, speak for themselves. I am presently building a website (vanishingamericanwest.com) which will feature my photo essays and short films.
My photo essays are in numerous archives/museums in the US and Europe. I am the only living photographer who has his own archive at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library: http://aao.lib.asu.edu/ViewRecordFrame.jsp?record=0000001158
My prize winning short films/videos have been screened at festivals in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan. Malta and Spain; and on many US cable systems.
Since 1994 I have lived in an adobe house in Casa Grande, Arizona.