EK's Don D. Nibbelink † Nov. 27, 2007
Don Nibbelink was 90 when he died last month, but judging from his energy you'd have
guessed that he would live at least ten years longer. A real spark plug. Great sense of humor. A fine gentleman.
After reading this, get ready for a run on books written by Don. As I said in the forward to the book I co-wrote with Roger Hicks (Hollywood Portraits), I believe that Don Nibbelink was one of the finest editors Kodak ever offered-up. That's why I counted on him to help verify certain information for the book. As well, he put me in touch with some of the last living photographers from Hollywood's golden era.
His work stands to prove me right or wrong. See for yourself. He wrote best-sellers such as "Picturing People", "Bigger and Better, The Book of Enlarging" (get the 1950's version.. he drafted it while deployed as a soldier in WWII...you won't ever give it up), or "Picturing the Times of Your Life" (co-written with his daughter, Monica, who died young of cancer*). Yes, his writing style was "bubble gum" simple, but it was so chock-full of useful information that even university-level photo students benefited from it.
I swear as I live and breathe that Don's "Complete Book of Lighting" (from the 1950's or '60's) is one of the best ever written on the subject. It is one of my major influences in lighting technique and motivated me to try to attain the highest level of quality in portraiture. Tells you exactly how to get that look I call "Kodak clean". Don Nibbelink was one of the few writers I have so far found who described precisely how to obtain highlight brilliance. The holy grail for a truly three-dimensional look. The only other place I've ever seen it mentioned is ... in a Kodak book. In today's world a softbox lighting, it's a lost concept (google the term and see). Here's the only copy I could find to show you.
Don was prolific. In retirement, he and his wonderful wife Lilo opened and ran a B&B in Victor, New York. One day I called him to wish him a happy birthday. "Oh, I'm glad you called. I couldn't find your number. Can you help me get a book published?". Don apparently thought that I had some "pull" (I don't) and absolutely insisted that I help him find a publisher for a very funny —but very well written and conceived— manuscript he'd finished. Before I mention the topic of the book, you should understand that it had all started as a project to keep his *terminally ill daughter smiling. The topic? Farting, and how different cultures around the world treated the subject. I think the working title was "Around the World in 80 Farts", or something like that. **Go ahead and laugh. Keep in mind, though: this was Don Nibbelink writing.
With every little change, Don would send me new typewritten pages. He didn't have email. I ended up with tons of manuscript pages and no time to read them all (reminded me of EK catalog changes!!). To my surprise I found that many, many books had already been published on the subject, with certain publishers even specializing in funny versions of the topic. Being in Europe though, I had trouble continually trying to contact publishers all over the U.S.A. and I finally told Don that I couldn't help him.
In the letter I received today from Don's widow, Lilo, she informed me that the book, whose final title became, "Fearsome Folklore of Farting", will in fact be published, due out July 1, 2008. Apparently, I didn't shoot high enough —or look hard enough— when looking for a publishing house, 'cause you know who's handling it? Random House! **As Lilo wrote, "He had the last laugh".
I'm looking forward to reading the final version of Don's last book. Then I can have a laugh, too .. and think of him.
.. .. ..
Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 12-28-2007 at 08:23 PM. Click to view previous post history.
He is also mentioned in this patent for a `Flasher` for use in the darkroom when enlarging negatives. This can be downloaded as a PDF.
Originally Posted by Christopher Nisperos
Thanks for mentioning him.
I’m quite sure (I still have not catalogued them) I have not got a single book by him in my library. The next time I’ll come across a Kodak book, which is not that often, I’ll have a look at the author.
Originally Posted by AgX
Hey, be careful: I think that his best books —those which would be most useful to us APUGers who are interested in traditional techniques— are the ones he wrote in the 1950's and 1960's. Later Kodak/Nibbelink books (from about the 1970's, on) tend to be watered-down a bit —"bubble gum" technique—, mainly targeting Instamatic users who used color film and went to the corner drugstore for processing, rather than the earlier Brownie users who lived in an era when many people still developed and printed their pictures at home and used floor lamps for portraiture because flash was not yet so prevalent. Don't get me wrong. Basic advice such as, "watch your background", is just as helpful to a Sebastiao Salgado*or a John Sexton as it is to a rank amateur, n'est-ce pas?
See you this summer in Brussels? I've found a couple of tucked-away camera stores selling —among other "old", neat stock— outdated Agfa and Kodak papers for 33-50% off (Record-Rapid, Panalure... yee ha)... You buy the coffee, I'll lead you to the treasure trove!
Your blackmailing pal,
Last edited by Christopher Nisperos; 12-29-2007 at 07:58 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I've just learned from Lilo that Don died without even knowing that the publication of his beloved book was underway! BTW, the Randon House website now states the book is due out in September, 2008.
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