CHICAGO — In what appears to be his last public engagement, Victor Skrebneski, who died Saturday, talked about his upcoming projects, his work philosophy, his love of Paris and growing up in Chicago.
The legendary photographer had two Rizzoli books in the works — “More Skrebneski,” a book about design, slated to be released this year, and a fashion book, not titled yet, scheduled for 2021.
The first book is “more of a design book for designers who like to see design and just pictures that I like,” Skrebneski said at a Fashion Group International Chicago breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton last December.
The fashion book will feature “everything to me that is fashion,” Skrebneski noted. “If you see a picture of Nena Ivon [former Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director], then you think she’s fashion because she is, that’s all she does. I shoot all the time. I have two years to do the book, which is nice.”
The photographer explained his work philosophy.
“Every morning when I come downstairs I go right to the light box, I have my photographs there and I say, ‘So, I should put this one next to that one,’” Skrebneski said. “I’m always doing photography downstairs. I love it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love it.”
And he shared his editing process.
“The way I put a book together, I gather the pictures I like, sort of, and throw them on the floor, so there’s no way to walk in the studio without stepping on the photographs and I can choose one, and put them aside and say, ‘That was OK, we’ll use that’ and get rid of other things,” Skrebneski said. “I’m sure you can all do something like that in your business.”
Aside from Chicago, Paris was his other great love.
“I’ve always loved it and I always wanted to go there and in 1952, when I went there, it just knocked me out,” he said. “Mayor Daley asked me to do work in Chicago, one thing I wanted was to light it up, like Paris, get brighter lights, all the buildings lit up beautifully and Water Tower Park, I loved doing that little park. But there it is, somebody else took it over, it’s all politics.”
Skrebneski spent the majority of his seven-decade career in Chicago. He paused during the interview, and pointed outside the window, toward Seneca Park down below.
“I was looking outside just now. That’s the park that my father used to take my sister and I at night and my mother bought a house where Nordstrom is now at Grand and Rush,” he recalled. “From there, we would walk to this park. I remember the first time I discovered the Palmolive Building and I looked up. My dad would walk us down Michigan Avenue, and everything was brand new to me. I was a kid, I didn’t know there were stores, there were glass windows, and that was absolutely wonderful and I loved it.”