Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Photographer A.J. Sokalner dies

I love this photo that photographer Brian Ach took of A.J. for "The Photographer's Project-" a series of portraits of the celebrity photographers in NYC in honor of another fallen colleague, Paul Hawthorne who passed away last December.

Photographer A.J. Sokalner dies

Photographer A.J. Sokalner dies
Shot celebrity photos for ACE Pictures
By Daryl Lang, Photo District News
Nov 3, 2009, 02:44 PM ET

Celebrity shooter A.J. Sokalner, admired by his colleagues for his quiet, passionate commitment to photography, collapsed Monday night outside an event in New York and died a short time later, according to his agency.

Sokalner was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital, said Philip Vaughan, owner of ACE Pictures. Vaughan said an emergency worker told him Sokalner had suffered a heart attack.

Sokalner collapsed minutes after entertainer Lady Gaga arrived at the ACE Awards, an event hosted by the Accessories Council at Cipriani on 42nd Street. He was part of a group of about 25 photographers working a rope line outside the venue, according to friend and fellow photographer Dennis Van Tine.

Gaga was the big star of the night, and photographers waited inside and outside the venue for her arrival at about 9 p.m. Van Tine was inside when he heard from another photographer that Sokalner had fallen outside. Van Tine says he went out and saw paramedics attempt to revive Sokalner for several minutes, then load him into an ambulance. Another photographer notified Sokalner's girlfriend. She and several photographers gathered at the hospital, where they learned Sokalner had died.

Sokalner was in his late 50s and lived in Manhattan. Vaughan says Sokalner was a hard worker who shot for ACE Pictures on a daily basis. "He was very well liked, he was very well respected," Vaughan says. "He was a real photographer and he did it because he loved it."

Van Tine says Sokalner studied the works of great photographers and tried to inject "pizazz" into his images, and was "one of those silent guys who goes out and shoots every day."

"He was a cynic in the great New York tradition," Van Tine says. "He knew what was right, he knew what was wrong, he knew who the crooks were."

A.J. and I have the same birthday, and would call one another as close to midnight as possible to wish each other a happy day. He told me how much he disliked birthdays and I always wanted to try to make him feel like it WAS a special day because he was here. He was a real gentleman, always calling me "sweetheart." Even on the red carpet, he would often call the celebrities he was photographing sweetheart, saying "thank you, sweetheart" after they posed for him.
My heart goes out to his family, friends and his longtime girlfriend Judy.



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