I arrived at my first Lyric service of the season greeted by a bespectacled gentleman holding a camera. “May I take your photograph?” he asked smiling broadly.
This was my introduction to Del Hall, an Emmy award winning photo-journalist who has spent his career documenting the most important events of the second half of the twentieth century. Thanks to Lyric Opera cellist and Orchestra Committee Chairman Bill Cernota, Del will be photographing the Lyric Opera Orchestra over the course of the next few years. The newsletter team sat down with Del and his wife Ginger to talk about his remarkable life.
“What I always wanted to be was a still photographer for Life Magazine. That was my dream. Not because I wanted to be a photographer, but I thought it was a great adventurous life.”
Instead Del felt lucky to start his career in 1960 in his native New Orleans at WWL-TV covering school integration, as part of a new generation of television news cameramen.
In the late 60’s he went to CBS News in Chicago where his work expanded to national and international topics. He worked with Walter Cronkite, with 60 Minutes, and Charles Kuralt.
Del went to wherever the news was. “We’d go in the morning with a packed suitcase and wait ‘till five o’clock. If nothing was happening by five o’clock we’d go home. But, many times before five o’clock we were on the plane to someplace. We never knew where we were going.”
He covered the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr., met Pope John XXIII and J.F.K., was there to photograph the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S., Preservation Hall in New Orleans, the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, the Vietnam War, and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.
He was chased by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, shot at in Vietnam, bloodied by police during the 1968 Chicago Convention and nearly died in a horrific helicopter crash while covering the 1974 America’s Cup Yacht Races.
His first camera was a Kodak Retina 35mm still camera, purchased by his grandmother from a pawnshop for $20. A true pioneer, Del started with print and continued learning each new technique as it developed, from film to video to non-linear computerized editing. He was nominated three times before he won an Emmy for his work with On the Road with Charles Kuralt.
Del’s wife Ginger explained, “No technology scared him. He was ready to jump in and take a chance. Del always saw the territory ahead and was ready for the new technology.”
Del continued to work for CBS after recovering from the helicopter accident. In 1980 he and Ginger started their own television production and editing company in Chicago. Eventually, Del filmed a series of short documentaries for Lyric through the involvement of the late Richard Kiphart, our former Board President and great friend to the opera. “We got to know everyone” he says. Bill Cernota and Del attended the same health club and became friends. Recently, Bill told Del about the orchestra website and he offered to help take photos of the orchestra. “I like the people.”
Del is as passionate about taking photos as we are about making music. We are so grateful to have him with us!
photo credits: Del Hall
Del Hall with his wife, Ginger