BOSNICK BIO: Long Version (Click here for short version.)

I was born in 1937 in a small factory town just east of Pittsburgh called Universal. Each morning we awoke to a fresh blanket of cement dust covering the town. In its own way, it was a Wonderful Town.

We had 600 residents, 9 bars, a volunteer fire department, hundreds of acres of wilderness, the omnipresent cement factory, and a first class country club, Alcoma, that hosted 2 PGA Tour events in the late 1940’s.

None of our neighbors was a member at the club but seven men from the town went on to become professional golfers, one of whom, Andy Borkovich, played in the U.S. Open and Eli Marovich played in both the Open and the PGA Championship.

1944-1950 By the time I was 12 I had seen 4-500 movies and an equal number of cartoons, News of the Day, Short Subjects and Friday night serials at the New Penn theatre in downtown Universal.

When I was between 7 and 10 I somehow and somewhere got the inspiration to learn to play the piano, so my sister Martha drove me over to Universal’s city center where Miss Berg taught piano and other instruments. I remember nothing of the lesson except that I enjoyed it and could see grand music in my future in the Big Band Era.

But as I was going out the door, Miss Berg stopped me with her question:” Ned, you do have a piano, right?” “No, we don’t” said I, and with that lamentable admission it would be 25 years before my second lesson.

My next fantasy was dancing when I was between ages 14-18, influenced by Gene Kelly, a Pittsburgh guy and Fred Astaire. I learned to make money at 12 but not enough to pay for dancing lessons, so I went to a dance studio and offered my janitorial services in exchange for lessons. They accepted my deal and before you knew it I could do a simple jitterbug and my social status was greatly enhanced. I was about 18 at the time.

1955 I bought my first camera. Also graduated from Penn Hills High School.

When Pittsburgh was the steel making capital of the world, the plants would hire hundreds, maybe thousands of college students to do all the dirty work and non-production jobs that accumulated since the previous summer. After my freshman year at Dickinson, which was and still is a highly regarded smaller version of the Ivy League schools, I got a job in my hometown cement factory called the Universal Atlas Cement Company, which I think was designed by the same person who designed Dante’s Inferno.

The Labor Gang jobs were always dirty and usually required physical strength. I was almost 6’2” and weighed 155 pounds. You could count my ribs from across the room. My brother-in-law, who was an electrician at the plant, did not think I would survive the first week but I did. With the cement dust in my teeth, in my lungs and in my skin, I studied harder in my sophomore year than I did the rest of my life. Cement dust was a great motivator.

After my sophomore year I worked at Edgewater Steel, which made wheels for railroad cars. The air was not thick with cement dust but the chance of serious injury was greater with the large buckets of molten steel overhead and the constant movement of the hundreds of heavy railroad wheels. I noticed that there were men with fingers missing, a hand and one an arm. They were sobering sightings.

The man who got me the job, Bill Blanck, who, with his family lived in the upstairs of our house, once had a forklift run through his kneecap. They hauled him off in a stretcher while I watched. I felt like I had been hit in the gut with a silent sledgehammer. Bill was back at work in 4 weeks.

I earned my BA from Dickinson in 1959.

A 3 month trek around most of Europe with fellow Dickinson grad Bob Chiarello, was an important continuation of my education and maturation. I fell in love with Paris and Impressionism.

1962 A chance meeting in a basic French class in Paris with a young Peruvian artist named Carrillo got me interested in the cinema. He took me to see films like BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, THE RULES OF THE GAME, BIRTH OF A NATION and many others in that genre.

I continued to have that feeling from my childhood that I had some contribution to make to my world. I just didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was the cinema.

In 1963-65 Studied in the in the UCLA Motion Picture Division of the FINE ARTS department where I had the good fortune and the life altering experience of having Jean Renoir as a teacher. I also learned about documentary films from Alberto Cavalcanti, a well-known documentary filmmaker of his time.

In 1965 I received my MA and made a half hour film titled THE SILENT CRISIS, Written, Produced, Directed and Edited by moi. It was invited to several non-competitive film festivals (Edinburgh, San Francisco, Leipzig) and won a prize at the Berlin Festival.

1965 The film made it to the final 8 considered but did not make the final 3 which were nominated for an Academy Award as Best Short Documentary.

1966 Showed my film to Stanley Kramer, a major filmmaker of the era and his advice was to try to get financing for my own film rather than getting a job in the industry.

1966-1968 Tried unsuccessfully to get financing for a feature film.

1969-70 On the belief that half a loaf is better than none, I wrote, (in 5 hours) produced & directed a feature film first titled IMAGO, then TO BE FREE. This film proved the adage that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

1970-1974. I went to see an old friend, sometimes called Big Larry, for solace after the failure of my film and he offered me a job in the development/construction industry. His company built motels in various parts of the country and I was to be the coordinator with the general and sub contractors. I told him that I knew absolutely nothing about construction and he said he didn’t either and that I should not worry about it.

I was once talking to a plumbing contractor in a mid sized town in either Kansas or Nebraska while I looked down at a set of blueprints. Without saying anything, he casually reached down and turned the plans around and smiled. I was looking at the plans upside down and didn’t know it!

I took a number of piano lessons during this time and practiced while on the road in churches, bars and once I rented a piano and had them bring it to my motel room. Occupants of adjoining rooms were not impressed with my playing. The lessons saved my sanity but they made me realize that I would have to find another art form to fulfill my mission on Earth.

I moved back to Houston in 1974 and in 1975 I wrote, produced and was the on camera interviewer for a PBS station KUHT documentary on the life of Seger Ellis, a Houston born figure in the early days of jazz. Seger played piano, sang and wrote music. Among the many songs that he wrote, his most enduring hits were a song the Four Freshmen used as their theme song, AFTER YOU and YOU’RE ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS.

A Houston man tried for several years to get private financing for a series like this of famous or interesting people’s lives, but he was unsuccessful.

1976 Wrote, produced & directed a one-hour documentary for PBS station WQED in Pittsburgh. It documented the wedding of a young woman with a Russian father and Serbian mother and a young man whose mother was Greek and father Serbian. They were all members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Somehow in 1978 I acquired 3 laundromats, which surprises me to this day because I have zero mechanical skills and an equal interest.

On my first day of ownership one of the dryers caught fire. I would come to learn that opening day was a typical day in the Laundro biz. There was not a day that went by in those years where there was not a major or minor crisis.

In retrospect, if you were watching it happen there were some really funny moments and I once thought that if someone wanted to make a film about Life in the Laundro, they should get Richard Pryor to play the continuously harried mechanically incompetent owner.

What saved my sanity while in this business was my growing interest in still photography. I had taken no classes or instruction of any kind, had never seen a photography show and did not know that it was an established art form, but I did have my UCLA Background in composition, lighting, story line, acting cinematography, theater etc.

I began to have my work professionally framed and hung them in 2 of the Laundros. By the time I sold the businesses I had about 20-framed photographs in each location, one of which was a shorter version of the Ray Charles Show.

Since all my education was in the cinema, my photographic work tended to be cinematic where multiple images constituted the work. The first thing I did after thinking that photography might be my destiny was a 5 picture improvisation of Mildred Milligan, formerly a concert harpist and teacher who was in her waning days in a Houston nursing home.

1981 Attended the Vermont based Zone VI Fine Art Photography Workshop which was one of the best such workshops of its time.

1982 Attended a workshop with GEORGE TICE in Austin.

1982-1995 Photographed extensively in Texas and Paris. Also Yugoslavia, the American Southwest, NBA BASKETBALL and some jazz and blues artists in Houston. I have IMPROVISATIONS, PHOTOFILMS, DOCUMENTARIES, IMPRESSIONISM and DOODLES.

I’ve had 29 one-person shows in venues ranging from museums, colleges, a university, one National Park and a vacant store in a small Texas town named Lampasas.

Ironically, a well-known Texas writer, Stan Redding, lived in that town and wrote a wonderful review in 1986 for The Houston Chronicle’s TEXAS section.

I’ve lived in the Pittsburgh area & Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Santa Barbara twice, Hollywood twice, New York City, South Bend, Indiana, Paris and Houston twice.


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Copyright © 2008 by Ned Bosnick