Unless your name is Richard Milhouse Nixon, you are probably a fan of Hunter S. Thompson. This Friday night, we get to hang out with one of the good Doctor’s close friends. Here’s a short chat with Al Satterwhite, legendary photojournalist and HST’s kindred hellraiser.
Eric Larkin – How did you get started as a journalist?
Al Satterwhite – I started working for a newspaper as a staff photographer when I was 18 and still in high school; I continued working for the St Petersburg Times during the summers while I was in college, also working for UPI (United Press International) and freelancing; after college, I was the Governor of Florida’s Personal Photographer for 13 months, living out of a Learjet until I left to start freelancing for magazines which was my ultimate goal
EL – It seems like the profession of journalism is really on its mettle right now, with both a complex national scene that desperately needs illumination and having its integrity questioned by very powerful people. Any thoughts on how to regain the trust of people conditioned to only believe what they already think?
AS – More pictures help tell the story – there is nothing like a well crafted photo and/or photo spread that tells a story; words tell the details, photos show the situation
EL – You first met Hunter S Thompson in Miami at the Republican National Convention, and hit it off so well, he made sure you were in Mexico (Cozumel Island) to cover his famous Playboy interview. It seems like you two bonded over a crazy week. Were you fast friends from then on? Why do you think you connected?
AS – We became friends after meeting at the Convention in Miami; whenever he came to Miami to check on Nixon, he would call me & we’d meet up in Miami or Palm Beach; opposites attract- crazy likes crazy, I dunno
EL – The Cozumel Diary is your record – in photos and words – of that week in Mexico, but you include other stories from your time with Dr. Thompson, right? What else can we find in there?
AS – Lots of stories when Hunter & I got together in Florida; since we were friends, I didn’t carry a camera for those adventures; I wrote about 10,000 words in the book about our adventures.
EL – During your career, you have covered some absolute cultural icons, from HST to Muhammad Ali to Jane Fonda to Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is not to mention a huge body of work that doesn’t focus on specific people; you’ve done advertising, sports, film – really everything. You are in the permanent collections of a number of museums. What are you working on now?
AS – I’m currently working on Southern Exposure, my travels in the South from 1962~1974; the book is 200 pages; I’m also updating the aRound series, to include New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome and Venice (Italy). These are both book projects and portfolios which I’m currently printing for museums and galleries
EL – If the Doctor was still with us, any guesses as to what he’d be doing, considering the state of the country?
AS – Hunter cashed out too soon – he’d be a dog with a bone with Trump and his boys….. and loving every minute of it.
This Friday – meet one of the photojournalism greats, and get as close to Raoul Duke as you’re ever gonna get in real life.